Diving, particularly if you like tropical waters, can end up being a pursuit that takes you all over the world. While this is great, and means that on top of the diving you get to experience lots of other cultures, idyllic surroundings and fantastic weather, it does of course come with the less enticing prospect of lots of long haul air travel.
Photo Credit: Sprengben [why not get a friend]
Travelling long distances by plane is never fun, but it can be even more of a pain when you also have to bring lots of your own dive equipment. Many airlines really gouge on luggage, and for those who don't like to rent gear on location this can mean a lot of expense and difficulty.
What Makes An Airline Diver Friendly?Airlines that understand that people who fly to dive may have to bring a lot of equipment (just like people travelling for other sports and activities like skiing and snowboarding might) and either have good basic luggage allowances to begin with, or apply special concessions to divers when notified in advance that these passengers need extra luggage space can be considered diver friendly.
Sometimes, if you buy a package diving holiday, the company you bought it with may have already negotiated this with the airline (particularly if it is a flight to a very popular dive destination, where the airline will be carrying lots of divers on that route every time they fly). In this case, check the literature from your travel agent or dive company for the luggage allowance.
Tips from fellow scuba divers regarding traveling/flying with scuba gear
- Invest in a portable luggage scale. This way you know the exact weight of your bags and you can be sure you do not have to pay big bucks because you brought to much luggage.
- Have a $20 bill in sight of the person who checks in your luggage
- Be loyal to 1 specific airline and save the (frequent) flyer points which will give you some perks sooner or later.
- Buy a first class ticket, you are allowed to take more luggage when you travel in luxury
- Pack your bulky, durable gear (fins, BC, wetsuits) in a duffel bag, than check that. Regs and mask, etc, in a back pack or carry on bag. Your clothes go in a roll-aboard suitcase.
- If you want to be sure and get your gear to your destination fed-x it there it may cost a little more but you can insure it and most places that I've stayed will hold it for you in a safe place and it will arrive before you do
The Airlines we found that love scuba divers
- InselAir which gives a free 10kg for dive equipment. Perfect for a dive trip to Bonaire
- Air Tahiti allows an extra 5kg when you show your cert cards.
- Sri lankan Airlines Divers receive and extra 10kgs luggage allowance in addition to their free 20kgs standard baggage.
- Thomson Fly Divers can get an additional 5kgs free of charge upon production of a valid PADI or diving certificate.
- Quatar Airlines They allow an extra 10Kg/22 lbs of sports / scuba equipment in a bag of its own.
- Air Malta offers a small fee to bring sports equipment to Malta including scuba gear 32 kg for 30 euros, and occasionally the fee is waived for diving kit.
- Etihad Airways Scuba Equipment - 1 set of scuba diving equipment is permitted free of charge weighing up to 15kg (except for journeys to/from USA , Canada & Brazil)
If you want to be sure and get your gear to your destination fed-x it there it may cost a little more but you can insure it and most places that I've stayed will hold it for you in a safe place and it will arrive before you do
Please let us know if you know another airline that loves scuba divers so we can ass them to this list.
What Are the Best and Worst Airlines?Budget airlines are, on the whole, absolutely terrible when it comes to luggage. They make a lot of money this way, which is how they can keep the prices of the flights so low.
RyanAir, for example, only lets you carry 15k of luggage, then charges a whopping four pounds a kilo for every additional kilo you need. This means if you want to take all of your gear, you may find it cheaper to get a more expensive flight with someone like BA than pay the luggage allowance.
Airlines that serve long haul routes tend to offer more luggage allowance, and at the time of writing Continental was considered to be one of the best for Trans-Atlantic flights, though airlines do revise the policies on things like luggage regularly so it is best to check when you are booking what airlines serving the destination you want offer.
Smaller airlines serving island destinations tend to be very lenient, especially if you let them know in advance or you are travelling on a diving package, because they depend on tourism, a lot of which comes from divers. This means you are likely to find local airlines in the Caribbean and places like the Maldives and Vanuatu very accommodating to you as a diver.
Photo Credit: tar0</a
In short, the only way to know what you can carry is to check the luggage allowances and excess fees before you book, however if you are limited when it comes to choice (because not many airlines serve your required route) and unhappy with the luggage policy, try contacting the airline in advance and explaining your needs – they may be prepared to waive the excess baggage fees for you if notified ahead of time.
Remember to stay calm and keep breathing, just like when diving. And what ever you do remember the rules regarding diving and flying on the same day.
Would you like to go dive the warm waters of a far far away destination? Feel free to contact us. We have multiple partners that offer all inclusive dive packages and scuba lessons too.
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Rutger Thole is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track and hates to pay excess luggage fees.