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Taking your bicycle, surfboard or kayak out for an adventure holiday in a far-off place can be wonderful — but only if the airline you’re taking gives you a reasonable deal. Many airlines like United and Delta either charge hundreds to transport sporting goods or refuse to carry them altogether. What kind of airline should you take for a sporting adventure then?

Travel news reminding you of the best golf courses, cycling trails, surfer-friendly beaches and ski slopes around the country can be fun. If you try to plan a trip to a sporting destination, though, you’ll find that airlines aren’t generally welcoming of passengers with sports equipment – they tend to turn extra-restrictive and extra-expensive.

Fortunately, though, not every airline plays spoilsport. Some do believe in dealing fairly with sports enthusiasts.

What kinds of inconvenience can you expect, picking the wrong airline?

Fees for oversized sporting goods: When you’re traveling with sporting goods, you need to be particularly careful about the airline you pick. If you find a cheap ticket on US Airways, for instance, you need to mentally tack on an additional $200 each way for your surfing board or skis.

Some airlines completely refuse to carry canoes, kayaks, bicycles, snowboards, fishing poles and other such unwieldy sporting equipment. Only a few airlines show some understanding in this area. If you’re visiting an international destination, Qantas allows you to carry your sporting equipment for free (some restrictions apply –
surfboards, for instance, need to be shorter than 9 feet). Other airlines only charge around $50 extra.

Lost gear: While having the airline lose a bag with all your clothes can be a problem, it’s usually a manageable one. What if the airline loses your kayak, custom skis or your touring bike, though? Not having the very piece of equipment that your trip depends on can put paid to your trip. You need to find an airline with a stellar record in this area.

Mishandled gear: Many sports travelers find their expensive sporting goods mangled or broken by the time they reach their destinations. Many are so unhappy that they have Facebook pages dedicated to protesting how terrible all the major airlines are in this area. Looking up reviews to find sports-safe airlines makes sense.

What kind of airline should you pick then? The two airlines below give sports travelers a very good deal. With further research, you can probably find other small airlines that serve the destinations that you need.


JetBlue only flies to 81 destinations around the eastern part of the US. If JetBlue does go where you’re going, though, it’s a good airline for sporting enthusiasts who need to travel with moderately bulky equipment. You also get free snacks on board.

Your luggage allowance: You get one carry-on free and your first checked bag can include many kinds of sporting equipment – snowboards, golf clubs, fishing poles and so on. Extra-large equipment like bicycles and surfboards cost $50 each way if they weigh under 100 pounds.

The prohibited list: Jet Blue doesn’t allow very large sporting equipment – scuba tanks, kayaks and canoes.


Southwest’s vast network makes it an excellent choice for sports travelers – its network includes dozens of sporting destinations. It also has an easy-going baggage policy and free snacks on board.

Your luggage allowance: You get one free carry-on and your first checked-in bag is free. The check-in can be anything from fishing rods to golf bags or skis. You do need to pay $75 for very large items like kayaks, canoes, bicycles and surfboards.

The prohibited list: They accept everything

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