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URGENT: Trouble Ahead for anyone wanting to travel with gear

Posted by Rich Pascoe 
British Airways have just announced the following and it worries me that other airlines will soon follow their lead....!

BA Press release

"Sporting equipment we do not carry (effective from 6 November 2007)
Due to the large size and handling complexities, some sporting equipment cannot be accommodated through the airport baggage system or within the aircraft hold. Therefore we no longer accept the following equipment at check-in as part of your sporting equipment allowance.

hang gliders
windsurfing boards and sails
kayaks or canoes
pole vaults
javelins "

Source: [www.britishairways.com]
Unless of course for all those who believe in Conspiracy theories.. there is some pact between the overseas hire centres and BA...

Club Vass will no doubt continue to go from strength to strength..!
Louise (Boardseeker)
Re: URGENT: Trouble Ahead for anyone wanting to travel with gear
19 October '07 | 5:34pm
I have just posted a news story on the HOME PAGE. The Student windsurfing Association have done a brilliant story linking to the official online complaints system on BA's website.

I've sent in my 'letter' of complaint this evening. Windsurfers already booked with BA (like us going to Cape Town in January) are waiting to hear back from BA about what they are going to do about pre-booked tickets. We know of one sailor who has been in touch and BA said they would honour his booking and take his equipment therefore it has nothing to do with new baggage handling machines that just can't take a the long length of a windsurf/surf board.

No problem for skis though?! I will let you know what BA say.
I have the same problem.
Do you have contactperson , mailadress or a phone number.

Have a nice day
Ronnie Somerville
Re: URGENT: Trouble Ahead for anyone wanting to travel with gear
21 October '07 | 7:39pm
By all means send in a complaint to the customer complaints department , but also send it, (bcc not cc) to:


the PR office of BA
I work in imports and use BA fr air freight. This is a knee jerk reaction and to be fair possibly the fault of windsurfers, myself included, in trying to take huge bags and or say "its a surfboard sir" I do know that they do not need to charge silly amount for gear and if packaged correctly with wheels etc then there should not be an issue. Shorter new style boards (I am currently on Evos) and better thought out bags would also help.

I have just read details on your new sporting policy regarding surf / windsurf equipment. This is a ridiculous situation and will stop me flying BA. I think a more matter of fact approach in terms of deciding how the boards should be packed and chargeable rates would be a far more sensible option. One of the issues facing athletes and keen windsurfers is that some of the bags the manufacturers make are designed to take much more than your windsurf board (sails, wetsuits, clothes etc) and are therefore very cumbersome. If these pieces are split into smaller bags (roller bags are an option) I don't think you will have issues as the pieces are not individually large or more importantly heavy. I currently work in importing from the Far East to the UK and we regularly use air freight and I ship many more complicated items through BA so I know it is not a question of cant do it. My windsurf board is not much longer (about 30 cms) or heavier than my skis (approx 2kg heavier) and with the ski coffin bags you are surely facing the same dilemma. Very large items, canoes etc I can appreciate causing an issue but with a bit of a common sense approach - bag not to be heavier, longer than a sensible limit I am sure that you can keep your sporting customers happy. It is also a bit hypocritical to charge large amounts for excess baggage as flight frequency means there is always room for air freight and when I travel as a fit 80kg guy with my 58kg wife and there are 2 x 100kg people checking in next to me my 30kgs of windsurf kit does not seem such a weight issue.

I would appreciate an answer on this issue as I am looking to continue to fly to Cape Town on a regular basis plus my business mileage to the Far East and this will definitely influence my decision.
Louise (Boardseeker)
Re: URGENT: Trouble Ahead for anyone wanting to travel with gear
23 October '07 | 9:18am
I have just spoke to BA as we are travelling to Cape Town in January. Everyone we spoke to said something different. The first guy said we can take windsurfing kit but it has to go Cargo which means it can be on the same plane as you but goes through a different system.

He put me through to cargo who said, no, its fine, you check in with it, it doesn't go cargo. They had no idea of the change in policy from Nov 7th. So we rang back the normal Customer relations and got someone else who said no problem if under 185cm long, can't take it if over that!

So we rang back one more time and got someone decent who said yes, if you have already booked before Nov 7th then you can take windsurf kit and it can be over 185cm but it has to go through a different baggage system. But all future bookings will NOT accept windsurf kit no matter what the length. When we asked her the reason, she said she wasn't sure, she thought there wasn't much demand for taking this type of kit and she couldn't explain why skis weren't banned as length is the issue when BA move to Terminal 5 as the baggage system won't handle that length (over 185cm)

So we are OK but this is the last time we will be able to fly BA. Unless they change their policy again....

The decision of BA to ban windsurf equipment on all flights is really an issue, which we as windsurfers and regular customers to various airlines have to fight. I would propose to write directly to the European Commission and more specificly to the Consumer Protection Comissioner. I do believe that BA is violating our right to access and use air travel as mean of transportation and even more by imposing this ban they are discriminating the windsurfing community compared to skiers, golfers, shooters (who transport their guns), etc.

I am sorry I cannot provide an e-mail address with this massage but if you look into EU Comission web site there should be a link.

Good winds.
I have written my letter of complaint to BA and got this email back as their response. talk about being brushed off. It is an automated response meaning they are not taking emailed complaints seriously. Incidentaly it was a variation on the typical letter by the SWA.

Here is what BA had to say...

Thank you very much for contacting us.

To be sure you have an answer from us as swiftly as possible, I would be grateful if you will speak to our customer support team. They deal with all pre-travel enquiries and they'll be happy to give you individual assistance.

Please phone them on 0870 850 9 850 and give your booking reference number when you call.

I'm sorry not to be more immediately helpful, but do please phone our customer support team. They'll do all they can to help you at once.

Best regards

Reshma Amin
British Airways Customer Relations

This is the link for the EU Consumer Centre in the UK. You can fill in a compalint form on-line. Let's try there.
I've (helped) put together the website www.oceansource.net which looks at the individual policies of all major airlines towards taking windsurfing kit, and I don't think it's that likely that other airlines are going to follow BA here. There is no truth in rumours that aircraft holds, or baggage systems are unable to cope with windsurf bags (not even at the new terminal 5 at Heathrow, at least according to a BAA spokesman I talked with). So that's not what has driven this decision by BA.

It's more likely to have something to do with BA's own recent rule change regarding baggage, which, almost as an oversigt, allowed all sports equipment to go free as long as it was under 24kg. BA was the only airline to have this policy, and as a result it seems to have have suddenly found itself dealing with a lot more surfers and windsurfers than it expected. Then faced with a rather embarrasing turn around in its policy (a return to what every other airline does) it decided it would be easier and less hassle to simply ban windsurfing kit since it only brings in a tiny fraction of BA's business anyway. I'm only guessing, but having spoken with quite a few other airlines they haven't said they regard taking windsurfing kit as being a problem, quite the opposite because they're now uniformly charging a fee per board. (Too many windsurfers per flight would become a problem however, and this is what BA was facing.) We have details of over 100 airlines and there's only one other who bans windsurfing kit, and that's a small South American carrier which operates tiny planes.

So it's probably not cause for panic just yet. But, with global warming being ever more regarded as a reality that has to be addressed, who knows? The near future could see all sorts of changes being forced upon us regarding the way we currently fly.

Whoever you're flying with, please feel free to check with www.oceansource.net that airline's official policy, we try our best to list every airline and keep them up to date!
Got this response from BA today - I'd booked a December flight to Cape Town before the ban was announced. It looks like BA are going to keep carrying windsurfers for the moment. Anyone else heard anything???

Dear Sir,

British Airways remains one of the few airlines to accept free of charge a wide range of sporting goods.

As you are aware, we have recently reviewed our hold baggage policy and as a result we have taken the decision not to accept certain larger items.

The redefined list of sports equipment that we can accept on our flights takes into account a number of factors, such as limitations of airport baggage systems and size and weight restrictions in the aircraft hold. Some items are simply not suitable for airport baggage systems to handle or travel in the aircraft hold due to size and weight restrictions, as well as customer demand.

We are working with a number of freight forwarders to find an alternative way for customers to carry surfboards and other larger items. Until this solution is in place, we will continue to honour bookings.

We will also continue to accept items by special arrangement when bookings are made through one of the specialist tour operators we work with.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain.

British Airways

Your Email:


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