How to: Fly with a yak
This isn’t a fool proof guide and possibly by writing it down I am tempting fate to retract the good luck I have had when getting myself on a flight with a kayak.
Do your research
Now I am the first to admit doing homework is not fun especially when the swell is up, the rivers are full or someone wants to do some flatwater slalom on the docks. However this part can save you time and money in the long run.
First you want to check if the airlines are partnered with any kayak outfits. If you need to make a trip to Africa make use of Kayak the Nile's deal with Brussels Airlines and get your boat on for free.
If there is nothing like that the next place to check is airlines baggage T&Cs and don’t assume that they stay the same. Airlines change their requirements all the time, sometimes for the better so let’s stay optimistic.
Be prepared to pay...
I know it’s gut wrenching and airlines make so much money anyway but budget it in, sometimes it will work out cheaper to rent a boat where you are going. Make a decision on how much you're willing to pay to have your boat be with you for that adventure.
Once at the airport
Ok so you have booked your ticket and you either know your boat will go on or you’re taking it to the airport as a punt, after all miracles happen.
Approach the check in desk with a smile and a mind set that your boat will go on, be polite and remember that lying is ok in pursuit of kayaking overseas. Be confident as you have done your research, you may know you have a paddlebag but as the airline takes skis for free suddenly your paddles look a lot like skis. And it’s always worth wrapping your boat up, as a general rule airlines accept surfboards more than they do kayaks. It is possible to make kayaks look like a stack of surfboards and always remember the power of suggestion.
Your kayak could be dressed up as;
- Adaptive sitting surfboard for disabled children. - If this works milk it and let the clerk know the good work you're doing at your destination. (This has been used shamelessly, you know who you are)
Sidenote: There are stories of going so far as to print windsurf team tops to make your story more believable.
Be the customer people want to help.
Turn up early, no one likes a suck up but be friendly and sometimes, if you can, do a flirt. Don’t be the 100th human to turn up at there desk for that shift, I realise it’s not always possible, but go out of your way to make the clerks life easier, have all your paperwork/ passport ready. If you have emails confirming your boat, print it out or screenshot them on your phone, make it as easy as you can for them to want to help you.
Enjoy your trip!
You are on holiday. Don’t forget to give yourself a second option in case the airport doesn’t go well. Make contact with your destination and find out the rental possibilities, in my experience kayakers always want to help people get into boats.