Looking up from the paisley floral patterned moo moo that the rotund woman is sporting in front of you, you breathe deeply to displace the anxiousness building in your stomach and chest. “This is it, everything packed, find my seat, ready for take off! ”.
National geographic-like images of you skating glorious foreign cloud dotted mountain ranges start swimming through your head, wooing you on. You inch forward down the boarding ramp to the plane, rounding the corner. The last step, the transition from the edge of the ramp to the plane, the final moment of mundane before embarking on the skate adventure of a lifetime!
Then, suddenly, one of the flight attendants catches sight of you. Her blank look of uncertainty means she potentially has bad news. She points over your way, whispering to her colleague while starting to push past the composed business man, moving in your direction.
You may not realize it, but this is the slow burn beginning of what is to be really bad traveling nightmare.
Your adventure begins here.
She uncomfortably squeezes past the woman with the dress in front of you, then administers the verbal death blow. “I’m so sorry, but we’re going to have to check that skateboard, it’ll be at your destination when you arrive”.
Her choreographed airline industry mannerisms and over-whitened-toothed smile as she takes your precious shred stick lie heavier than an animal rug.
Fast forward sixteen draining hours of airborne stagnation later, and your standing at the baggage claim in a foreign country at some odd hour of the night, blankly waiting for your skateboard to exit through those black plastic flaps guarding the little hole that spits out your worldly belongings.
Alas, the scenario plays itself out just as how you would imagine, nothing shows up on the other end (or if it does, it looks like it was dragged beneath a moving vehicle and then hit with a hammer a dozen or so times).
Now boardless and marooned in a foreign land, your trip takes an unexpected and dismal turn, the nightmare of dealing with the missing / damaged baggage department begins…
The sad fact of the matter behind all of this, is that the situation described above could have been avoided to some degree.
The trick to air travel is finding a way to check as little as possible while yet avoiding the ill-fated circumstances that will ultimately end up with your board being checked at the gate. In some situations however, there is no other option.
All the same, there are some things you can do, and / or acquire, that will reduce the potential of your things getting lost or beaten to death by the air travel equation; allow us to make a few suggestions.
1. Condense Like Soup and Carry On
The ultimate trick to winning the air travel game is to carry everything with you. assuring that it will fit into the overhead bin.
If you have everything on your persons, then there is no reason, other than you maybe spending too much time at the airport bar before your flight, that should result in anything getting lost.
However, in some instances you won’t be able to avoid not having to check your board, in which case we strongly recommend you acquiring something along the lines of a Sector 9 Field Bag. which allows you to condense everything down into one check-able item, and will additionally protect your things from getting mangled.
Moreover, it’s always wise to make sure you have your most prized possessions with you. including your toiletries and a change of clothes in a backpack.
Pro-tip: if you check a laptop with your bag while traveling in the US, air transit security will search it (one more stop on the conveyor belt to the plane, one more chance for it to get left behind).
2. The Early Bird Gets Their Bags On The Plane
So let’s assume that you have a board bag with everything neatly packed inside that you’re looking to check.
It’s important to keep in mind that after you check your bag with the attendants at the desk / curbside, you still have to factor in the maze-like mire of conveyor belts and chutes your bag will ultimately have to navigate before it finally gets loaded onto a truck. Not to mention then transported across the tarmac and to your flight that is on schedule to leave on time regardless as to whether your stuff is on board on or not.
So, to leave the airline lots of time to do their job, get to the airport two hours prior to your flight.
A month long shred adventure, fits into one skate bag.
3. Call Before You Bawl
If you’re unsure of what specifically you’ll be able to get on the plane, call your airline.
In most cases they’ll just spit out
some airline regulation banter about approved sizes for objects allowed as “carry-on” items by the TSA, but rarely, you’ll get a realist who may be able to let you know whether or not you’ll be able to store that item in an overhead bin.
Every airline is different. and domestic flights usually tend to be more lax when it comes to items carried aboard. Sometimes it just comes down to who you ask. Just try to remove as many variables of uncertainty before it actually comes time for you to board that flight.
4. You Gotta Be This Small To Ride This Ride
I’ll say this, and I speak from experience of traveling a lot with a skateboard aboard an airplane.
I myself have gotten away with carrying aboard a 39 inch Loaded Tan Tien (strapped to my backpack) on ALL of my domestic flights within the continental United States, and 90% of my flights around Europe. The only country I flew into that made me check my board was the UK.
That being said, this was as long as I managed to get on the flight early enough to find a space for my deck to fit in an overhead bin.
Lighter is better.
Airline regulation will state otherwise. But the truth of the matter is, no one really wants to deal with you or your stuff. Usually if you can make it work, chances are no one will complain.
On the flip side, if you choose to check your board, there are some restrictions. The internet says this: 62 inches or less in length and weight should be 50lbs (22.6kg) or less. If your skateboard(s) exceeds these limits, you’ll be charged extra. This varies from airline to airline.
5. Battle Of The Bins
As mentioned above, getting to your flight / gate early is going to be key in regards to being there at that exact moment when they call you to board. Some airlines, like Southwest, allow for free (unassigned) seating after they call your boarding group, which, if you’re lucky, will allow you time to get on the plane and find a place to stash your deck.
Others, however, call by row. If you're in the back of the plane, sometimes you’ll be outta luck.
Crossing the pond.
In the end, a lot of it simply comes down to the battle of the bins. and you’ll just have to make it work. I’ve found that even if bins are closed, a lot of the time there will be enough room to slot your board in (laid flat) above or under people’s wheelie bags.
Another potential solution is to deconstruct your board before hand, allowing for the deck to be slotted into a bin with greater ease. The trick is to make your shred stick as stow’able as possible. especially when trekking with a deck greater than 32 inches.
6. Damage Control
If you’re dealing with missing or damaged baggage, get ready for a long wait.
If your bag didn’t show, in most cases you got to your flight late, or your bag never made it on board. If this is the situation, sometimes all you have to do is stick around until the next flight comes in, and more often than not, your bag will be on that flight.
Airlines tend to do this when they have overbooked flights and can’t fit everything on board. Skaters usually fall victim to this simply because board bags are often regarded as “oversized" or "oddly shaped baggage".
If you must, you can leave the airport, but you MUST have a phone number / address for them to reach you at so when your bags do show, they can get them to you.
Un-advantageous to you and more often than not, the airlines will employ a cheap third party delivery company to deliver your bags. So if you must, you can further entrust the airport to get your luggage to your final destination (which they’ve already done such a great job of…).
Just make sure that if this is the way you want wade through this quagmire of a situation, be sure to pack a backpack with a change of clothes, some deodorant, a toothbrush, and any important or essential items. Just trust me when I say this, it will seem like a gift from the skate gods when this situation befalls you.
The bottom line is that air travel will always be a fiasco.
Eventually, you will live out that picturesque vision you had while standing in line to board the plane behind the rotund woman with the paisley floral patterned moo moo. And while traveling will never really be quite as easy as all of those airline billboards showing the woman enjoying the best sleep of her life make it out to be, just remember that you will eventually get there. and so will your things, as long as you take proper heed of these six suggestions.