Sports Equipment On a Plane: An Essential Guide

Sports enthusiasts are often among the most prominent air travellers queuing at check in desks. Whether it’s peak holiday season, a major sporting event coming up or a destination famous for its sports activities, like skiing, surfing or diving, you end up secretly envying these adventurers.

Join them next time! But first read our article to find out more about navigating air travel with sporting equipment.

What are the airline policies regarding sports equipment? How do you pack your sports gear to prevent damage? Are there any special considerations for specific sports equipment?

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Flying with sports equipment

Sports equipment is considered part of your checked baggage allowance as per your fare and class. Please, note that the number of luggage items and their dimensions must not exceed your baggage allowance. If your sports gear is overweight, it will be subject to excess baggage charges.

Most airlines have their own set of policies regarding sports equipment, so you’ll need to check these before your departure. However some general rules apply.


What is considered sports equipment?

Most airlines classify sports equipment as skis, snowboards, diving equipment, bicycles, hockey sticks, golf clubs, fishing gear or surfboards. 

Firearms are not regarded as ordinary sports equipment. For security reasons, both sporting and hunting firearms and ammunition are subject to special regulations. Some destinations even enforce a complete ban on their transportation.


Basic rules for transporting sports equipment

When travelling with your favourite sports gear, make sure it is packed securely and has adequate travel insurance.

Each item of baggage must be labelled (both inside and outside) with the passenger’s name and (mobile) phone number. You should do this before you head to the check in desk. Free bag tags are usually available at the check-in counter but you can also use your own.

Note that depending on the size and weight of your specific sports gear, additional fees may apply. This is why it is important to check the air carrier’s policy before you book your ticket.

Arrive early to check in and accommodate extra time for your sports equipment. Make sure you have enough time to communicate with the airline staff and explain the contents of your bags.


Weight limit

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) defines weight restrictions for checked baggage as 23 kg/ bag. This weight limit has been introduced to help guarantee the safety of airport workers who have to lift these heavy suitcases and bags.


Heavy luggage

If your hold baggage exceeds 23 kg, the maximum allowance is 32 kg. In this case it will be labelled ‘heavy luggage’. Note that its dimensions must be less than 158 cm (combined length + width + depth).



Baggage that is even larger can still be transported. However, you will have to contact the airline and send it as cargo. Rules and rates vary with the air carrier so check the airline’s website or the relevant counter at the airport for more information.


How much does it cost to travel with sports equipment?

Baggage allowance varies with the airline depending on the fare, passenger status (frequent flyer) and destination (domestic or international). If you are not sure, check the baggage allowance included with your airfare before your departure to avoid any extra charges. Relevant information should be included in your booking confirmation or at the airline website.

Members of airlines clubs (e.g. British Airways gold or platinum members) can sometimes transport sports equipment as part of their baggage allowance free of charge.

If your sports gear exceeds your free baggage allowance or is too large/ too heavy (up to 32kg), you will have to pay a special fee. Rates and size/ weight restrictions vary, so check with the airline in advance.

Note that it is often cheaper if you decide to pay for your extra bag in advance (in some cases up to 70% cheaper). So it is a good idea to check with the airline early on.


Registration of sports equipment

Due to the limited storage space on the plane, most carriers recommend that you register your bulky sports equipment well in advance (48 or even 72 hours before the flight). Passengers can do this via online forms available on the airline’s website or a travel agency. You will need to quote your booking code when making this special reservation for your sports equipment.


Sports equipment allowed in carry-on/ cabin luggage. Special rules.


 sports equipment on a plane


Sports equipment allowed in hold luggage

Sports equipment is typically too large to fit into your carry-on or too dangerous to take onboard so it is transported as part of your cabin luggage. One bag of sports equipment counts as 1 item of your baggage allowance.

Examples of sports gear that can be carried in the hold luggage include: golf clubs, cricket/ baseball bats, hockey/ lacrosse sticks, canoe/ kayak paddles, walking/ hiking poles, crossbows, darts.


Sports equipment allowed in both hand and hold luggage

Smaller and safer sports equipment is allowed in your hand luggage too. Thus, UK allows sports parachutes, tennis racquets, snooker/ billiards/ pool cues, and fishing rods on the plane.

Passengers are usually allowed to transport balls (footballs, basketballs, volleyballs, golf balls) in their hand luggage. Remember however that if you leave the ball fully inflated, it will be under increased pressure during the flight.


Special rules: Check with airline before you travel

For security reasons special rules apply to the transportation of certain sports equipment such as firearms (including replicas). In case you need to bring a sporting or hunting weapon on the plane, please contact the airline to enquire about their regulations.

Special rules apply also to ammunition, which is limited and transported separately from the weapon.

Harpoons and spear guns must be properly secured when transported and ammunition must be packed separately.

Diving equipment is also subject to special rules and regulations, especially regarding the transportation of the oxygen tank and the diving lamp.


Winter sports

ski equipment on a plane


Passengers are allowed 1 item of baggage with 1 pair of skis (securely packed in a special case) or a snowboard. You can also transport 1 item of baggage with a pair of ski poles/ snowboard boots and a helmet.

Note that ski bags exceed checked baggage size limits, so they are transported as bulky baggage. This means you will have to go to a special counter at the airport for check-in.



You are allowed to transport 1 standard (non-motor)/ children’s bicycle or a unicycle. No e-bikes are allowed on planes. 

Airlines have different size restrictions. For example, Lufthansa allows up to 280 cm (combined height + width + depth of the box). If you are flying with British Airways, the size limit is 190 x 95 x 65. Ryanair allows bicycles if they weigh less than 30 kg.

Connecting flights are tricky with sports equipment and varying size limits, so check well in advance to avoid extra fees.

Your bicycle must be packed in a suitable travel case - a cardboard box, a plastic bag or special stretch foil. Some air carriers require that you remove the pedals and handlebars so they don’t stick out, and secure them along the frame. You may also have to unscrew the front wheel and deflate the tyres.


Fishing gear

fishing equipment on a plane

You can transport your fishing rod and fishing gear as long as it is properly packaged and the bag is within the airline's size restrictions.


Diving equipment

diving equipment on a plane


You can transport your oxygen cylinder but it must be empty and all switches and valves must be set to the OFF position. This counts as 1 item of baggage and must be presented at check-in for inspection.

You are also allowed 1 item of baggage containing other diving gear, such as a snorkel, flippers, diving suit, etc. This gear must be properly packed and the bag must fit the airline’s size and weight restrictions.

Note that special rules apply to your diving lamp. All power sources and other heat generating items with integrated batteries must be removed. The diving lamp is not permitted in/ as checked baggage. You can transport it as part of your hand luggage. Special transport approval is required in this case so you will need to register your diving lamp when booking your flight.


Golf equipment

 golf equipment on a plane


Passengers are allowed 1 baggage item with golf clubs, tees and balls, plus 1 pair of golf shoes. Note that all your golf gear must be packed inside a golf bag which must not exceed the airline’s size restrictions.


(Ice) Hockey

 ice hockey equipment on a plane


You can take 1 bag with 1 hockey stick, 1 pair of ice skates, 1 set of body protectors and 1 helmet. All your hockey gear must be properly packed.



 surf equipment on a plane


Some traditional airlines do not allow surfing/ windsurfing equipment on their planes. However, you can take it with you on certain low-cost carriers, like Ryanair or Wizz Air. Special rules and charges apply so check with your air carrier.

Whenever allowed, surfboards and kayaks/ paddles must be packaged in special protective bags and must not exceed certain dimensions (190-200 cm).

Larger sports equipment can be transported as cargo.

It might be cheaper to rent such large equipment instead of paying to transport your own so check and compare costs in advance.


Fire arms

Special regulations apply to the transportation of sporting/ hunting firearms and ammunition. You are advised to check the air carrier’s guidelines well in advance and allow additional time for check-in.

Some airlines allow several weapons per passenger however these must be registered early on and checked in well before departure (for example, at least 120 minutes before the flight).

If you are flying with your weapon, make sure you:

  • Pack each firearm in a secure, unloaded state and locked in a special container;
  • Pack ammunition separately from your firearm in a rigid and lockable container. 

According to IATA restrictions, passengers are allowed a maximum of 5 kg of ammunition (for personal - sporting/ hunting purposes only).

Note that an additional fee may be charged for the transportation of firearms (varying between 25 and 90) depending on the country. On some destinations (such as London Heathrow, or Edinburgh/ Inverness/ Glasgow in Scotland) the transportation of firearms is completely forbidden.

Whenever allowed, firearms can be transported only in your checked luggage - not in your carry-on or on person.


Travel Insurance Coverage for Sporting Equipment:

Many traditional insurance policies cover the loss, theft or damage of sports equipment during a trip. This coverage is often part of the standard baggage insurance. Various scenarios included cover:

  • The damage or loss of your sports equipment by the airline;
  • Delayed baggage requiring the purchase of replacement sports gear

If your travel insurance includes coverage of sports equipment, the claiming process is similar to the standard luggage claim in case of damage, loss, etc.

In case your flight has been delayed or cancelled, you may be eligible for compensation under EC261.

Did you have a delayed flight in the last 3 years?

Check your compensation for delayed flights for free!


Sports equipment, such as skis, surfboards, snowboards, golf gear, etc., is part of your free checked baggage allowance. Air carriers have various policies regarding the transportation of sports gear, this is why it is important to check rules and fees in advance. You should also pack and prepare your gear well to avoid any damage.

Know your rights, prepare well and feel free to explore new and exciting destinations with your favourite sports equipment while ensuring a smooth and hassle-free air travel experience.