It's Not a Canoe. It's a Tuba.

Destinations, July 1997

S  M  A  R  T      T  R  A  V  E   L E  R

It's Not a Canoe. It's a Tuba.

Tromping about on Spain's unique western shore, where fjords abound and vino is a breakfast staple
By Claire Martin

Skis are free. Golf clubs cost nothing. Even sousaphones carry no surcharge. But try to check a kayak, even a foldable one, before your next airline trip and watch the ticket clerk's eyes roll. If the airline will transport the craft, you'll be charged a hefty fee. This wasn't always so. As recently as last year, most equipment-lugging travelers could find baggage handlers who'd wink at restrictions. But since the crash of ValuJet Flight 592, which was blamed on oxygen tanks, and the implementation of tighter airport security, airlines have become much stricter about what they'll carry and at what price. Stove fuel containers, for example, must be empty, their cleanliness proved by scrubbing them in view of gate attendants; even then, most airlines won't carry them. What follows are other current baggage regulations — and a few possible end-runs.
Bikes Must be packed in a bike case or in a box supplied by the airline. Can't exceed 70 pounds, which is the total weight allowance per bag. Usually $50 each way. But harried ticket agents often automatically charge for "oversize baggage" — as much as $95 or more. Call ahead and confirm policies so you'll have ammunition with an intractable clerk. Or try ingenuity: Cyclists told us they've successfully claimed their boxes held everything from easels to tubas, all free.
Surfboards Must be bagged and meet the weight restrictions or face a hefty surcharge — as often happens when surfers carry several boards in a single bag. Usually $50-$75 each way, but like bikes, boards are frequently charged as oversize baggage. Casually suggest your bag contains vaulting poles. Cost to check them onto United Airlines (according to their official bagggage list): $30.
Kayaks and
Don't even try to bring these on a commuter jet; they're often longer than the cargo bay. Major carriers, on the other hand, may or may not accept them as air freight. Call first. Cost depends on weight and length of the boat. A 15-foot kayak would cost about $160 to send from New York to L.A. Pull out a calculator. Airlines use complicated formulas to determine boat shipping costs. Whine that they've miscarried a decimal. They might accept your kayak for less — just to get you to leave.
Sailboards The most expensive gear to transport, since board, boom, and mast are often charged as separate pieces. Many airlines require them to be sent air freight. Usually $75 per piece — $225 — each way if checked and more if shipped as freight. Rent gear at your destination. Or consider taking up golf: The quintessential gear of the frequent-flier set, clubs are transported free by all airlines.

Illustration by Philip Anderson

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