Flying with sports equipment can be a bit tricky and various airlines have both similar and different rules and regulations. Always check with the airline website for up-to-the-moment baggage checking rules. We’ve done some of the research for you, but rules can change on the spur of the moment, so always double-check.
There are some general tips that apply to all equipment checking: Confirm the price before you attempt to check-in. Be sure your airline will accept the equipment. The bag size should be appropriate and standard. Take a photo of the equipment and bag in case you need to make a damage claim. Make sure everyone in the family or group counts the number of bags and has claim checks for each. Check your airline’s liability policy toward equipment damage.
Airlines advise allowing extra time for check-in. You might try to stick with the same airline if you fly to ski and ride often so you know the general rules. Consider saving yourself any hassles by renting quality equipment at the resort. You can avoid using the airlines for checking and lugging it all by using services like Luggage Free or Ship Skis.
Airlines base their cost for getting your equipment to the airport with you on a variety of factors including their own baggage policies, credit card benefits, and frequent flyer status. You can save considerably if you do some research before checking in. Some airlines (such as Southwest) or certain cabin classes offer free checked bags, so your equipment will qualify for that. Do you have plenty of frequent flyer miles? Be sure to ask if checked ski equipment is a benefit. You are among their best customers.
How much will you pay? The writers at NerdWallet who track these thing say “As long as the boot bag does not weigh more than 25 pounds, the skis/snowboard and boot bag will count as one checked item. Checked items usually cost between $30 and $50, depending when during the booking process you elected to check baggage.
Here’s our quick guide to several airlines and their policies:
The maximum linear size (length + width +height) is 126 inches. The maximum weight is 50 lbs. That is subject to the airplane’s cargo space. If the equipment bag contains anything other than approved items, it will be charged as a standard checked bag. and additional fees may be charged. You may be asked to open your bag for inspection.
When substituting ski equipment for a free bag, Southwest allows up to two bags to count as one item, even if they are packed and tagged separately. Equipment – including one pair of skis or one snowboard, one pair of ski/snowboard boots, and one set of poles are allowed- but must be packed in a container(s) acceptable to carrier. Snow ski equipment will not be subject to excess size charges; however, excess weight charges may apply.
A ski/pole bag or one snowboard bag and one boot bag is accepted per person and counts as one checked bag. The combined weight of the ski/snowboard bag and the boot bag may not exceed 50 lbs. or excess weight charges will apply; however, no excess size charges are applicable. All standard baggage charges apply. If the outside linear dimensions (length + width + height) exceed 115 linear inches (292 cm), the item will not be accepted. Items in excess of baggage allowance will be subject to additional or overweight baggage fees.
United accepts up to two snowboards in one bag or up to two pairs of skis and associated equipment in one bag to go along with either boot bag. A boot bag on its own is subject to normal baggage fees. Ski and boot bags must be less than 50 lbs. to avoid overweight charges. Service charges apply whenever bags are checked and are determined by the airline. Ski equipment in addition to the baggage allowance will be assessed at the excess baggage charge. Bags containing non-ski-related items will be subject to standard baggage charges. United is not liable for damage to snow ski or snowboard equipment.
Skis (or snowboard), ski poles and ski boots all count as one checked bag. A pair of boots may be checked separately from the ski bag as long as it does not exceed 25 lbs. (if it does, it will be considered a separate bag). For example, one piece of luggage, one ski bag and a boot bag less than 25 lbs. equal two items, but a piece of luggage, one ski bag and one boot bag over 25 lbs. would equal three. If a boot bag weighs over 25 lbs. it will be considered a second bag. Overweight charges apply on 50-plus lbs. Boot bags can be carried on if within allowable carry-on dimensions (24″H x 16″W x 10″D, 35 lbs.).
One or more sets of skis and poles carried together in the same container count as one piece of checked baggage (ski poles that are carried separately will count as a piece of checked baggage, so make sure you pack them in with the skis). Skis and poles must be packed in a rigid and/or hard shell case specifically designed for shipping. The policies for a snowboard are the same. There are no oversize charges for skis or snowboards, but overweight charges will apply (must be less than 50 lbs.).
A boot bag containing only boots does not count as a piece of checked baggage if it’s carried along with skis/snowboard; but if a bag is unaccompanied or found to be transporting items in addition to boots, it’s a separate charge. Sports equipment bags and cases can’t contain clothing or other personal items, only sports equipment.