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Having travelled over the past few years to various European countries with a variety of kayaks from Composite Squirt boat through to Freestyle kayak and upto some of the biggest creek boats ive learnt a fair bit about flying with kayaks
Flying with kayakas has really opened up international paddling for many people making Europe a quick hop instead of the tedious days of driving.
Heres a few tips for flying
Ryanair is Europes lowcost airline but at last check it was 50e each way to take a kayak, but its easy to book online with a clear kayak option in sporting equipment. it does give a 20kg limit this very much depends who you end up talking to at the desk,
In the past ive had my boat weighed and luckily it was the freestyle kayak but over the past year ive heard of lots of people taking creek boats with no problem
Irelands comfortable airline, a nicer option with your own seats and less rushing usually friendlier than other airlines but at the end of the day they all get you their!
on the online booking you will need to book your kayak as a surfboard, at last check 30e each way, I havent heard of anyone coming across any difficulties with this but personally I always try to put it into a board bag (for my big mamba/Shiva I find a SUP bag works well) then at least it looks like a board…
Again it has a 20kg limit but with most big creekers now upto 26-28Kgs I havent had a problem,
A note for Aer Lingus when flying through Dublins terminal 2 the new oversize baggage system will only take upto about a medium Burn anything longer usually has to be taken by hand up the lift and across the floor, this is a nerving situation waiting for your boat to be taken.
In May 2013 Aer Lingus “lost” My Large Shiva for 5 days this is the only negative experience ive had with the airline – in fairness they got my boat delivered to the campsite in Val Sesia for me.
So when you turn up at the airport a few hints to make things smoother…
- Only put bulky light items into your boat things such as PFDs and helmets try to keep it as light as possible.
- Either book an extra piece of sports luggage between your group for paddles or attach them carefully to your boat padded paddle bags are the job! – always take a spare!
- Arrive early for your flight
- be polite and be prepared to wait.
- Take the lightest boat up first in case they attempt to weigh it and encourage the others are all about the same
- A kayak is always 15-20kgs
- Be helpful and if they ask you to take your boat somewhere else politely agree and smile.
- Try and wrap your boat in either a board bag or cloth sock – this will stop it getting abused so much.
- Mind doors, lifts and other passengers boats on trolleys look great but become very difficult to manoeuvre
- Once your boat is gone move on quickly before they change their mind!
- at the other end wait patiently – they are usually the last thing out
- Check for damage especially to paddles and report it on the scene
- if it doesnt arrive make sure you have the address of the place your staying and contact numbers a description is also always good!
We are very lucky here in Ireland to have 2 airlines that will accept kayaks, many other countries around the world don’t have this luxury and sometimes this is a result of claims that paddlers make. Companies like JAL, Air Canada and many of the US and European airlines will not accept a kayak of any kind. In some of these cases they used to accept them and sometimes free of charge. The change of heart comes when they receive too many claims for damage to one type of item. If a boat gets completely destroyed then of course people will make a claim but I have known people that make false or misleading claims in the past. For example claiming that a boat is beyond repair when that is not the case or generally exaggerating the cost of damage. In the long run this is very counter productive as eventually it leads airlines to ban an item completely from travel. This is exactly what happened with many of the US carriers. So if its only a small bit of damage and you want to look at the long term bigger picture its best to suck it up.