When I noticed United Airlines started adding kiteboarding gear as part of their accepted sporting goods equipment I was pretty happy. As usual though the airlines let me down. I had different experiences getting my kite gear checked at different airports. Upon further review of their policy since returning home I found some problems with the policy.
I flew United from ND to South Padre, TX. On the way down I got through the check-in process without any trouble. I paid the checked-bag fee of twenty-five dollars as the policy states and went on my way. This was how I expected the transaction to go down.
Returning home things went differently. I had the same bag and the same contents inside. But this time I was assessed an oversize bag fee of $100. When I stepped up to the check-in area the woman asked if the bag contained kite gear. I answered with a yes. She then said it would be a hundred dollars. I told her the policy stated kite gear was to be treated as a simple checked bag according to her airline’s policy unless it didn’t meet the criteria as set out in the policy. She was unaware of the policy and asked another woman to look it up. Sure enough she came back with the policy in hand and stated my bag was to big to qualify. She hadn’t measured it yet. As you can see United had already decided I wasn’t getting through without the added fee.
Knowing my bag was sixty inches long I asked that she measure it. She measured the bag from end to end and then the height on both ends and told me the result was seventy-two inches. I then told her she measured incorrectly. What reason would there be to measure the height twice and add that into the total? She never even measured the width. So she didn’t measure correctly but it wouldn’t have mattered. The policy states length plus width plus height. After further review of the policy and checking with some kiteboard pros I have determined no kiteboard would be allowed to fly at the regular fee. This is because no kiteboard would fit within their restricted dimensions. In order to do so under the policy as written a kite board would need to be 1″ x 48″ x 13″. Or at least some dimensions similar to that adding up to less than 62″. Maybe someone has a board like that but it is too small to fit the norm. Isn’t that what the policy is written for?
Wakeboards, snowboards and downhill skis are not limited by this strange set of dimensions and therefore allowed to fly at the regular rate. As far as the airline is concerned, what is the difference between a wakeboard and a kiteboard? Sure there are some kiteboards which would be closer to the surfboard category and probably should be charged as such but many are not. When I travel with my ski equipment I am probably traveling with more surface area and weight than with my kite gear but I have never had any trouble with it all. Well, United did temporarily lose my skis once.
Anyway, I couldn’t leave the bag at the airport and go home without it. Since I couldn’t reason with her I told her to charge it and I would dispute it later. So I will be having a conversation with United about the difference I found between their check-in process at the two different airports as well as the discriminatory way their policy is written towards kiteboard equipment. I will keep you posted on how this turns out.