United Reduces Surfboard Fees for Surfers Traveling to or From California

Oct 5, 2018

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In a move that will no doubt be hailed as “bodacious,” “rad” and/or “tubular,” United has reduced its service fees for checked surfboards traveling to or from California. Granted, the carrier isn’t wiping out the fee altogether, but it’s a welcome move that’ll allow more hard-earned dollars to be spent on poke rather than carriage fees.

Effective Oct. 5, 2018, customers traveling with a surfboard, wakeboard or paddleboard on direct United Airlines or United Express itineraries that originate or end at any California airport will not have to pay the previous $150 or $200 service fee to check these items. Rather, the regular checked bag fee will apply. Speaking of those, United just hiked its standard bag fees in August, with the first bag costing $30 each way, and the second carrying a $40+ fee depending on your destination.

As part of the move, United is donating $50,000 to Sustainable Surf, “a California-based environmental nonprofit that operates as an innovation lab using surfing as a force for good.” Through United’s donation, Sustainable Surf will “continue to focus on a variety of programs that address environmental impacts on the ocean by educating local and global communities.”

The news comes just weeks after California formally designated surfing as a state sport. Janet Lamkin, United’s president for California, leaned in to the marketing: “California made it official: surfing is our state sport. We want to make it easier for customers to surf our beautiful beaches, whether they’re visiting or call the Golden State home. This partnership continues our commitment to the environment by supporting an organization like Sustainable Surf, which helps keep our beaches beautiful.”

It’s also probable that United is reacting to Alaska Airlines‘ continued push into California airports. Alaska slashed fees for sports equipment down to just $25 last year, and allowed MVP Gold 75K, MVP Gold, MVP, First Class and Club 49 guests to count sporting equipment that was previously charged as oversized/overweight towards their free checked baggage allowance. Plus, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card cardholders were given that same perk.

surfing
Surfboards now fly for less to/from California on United (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Though we’d dare not kvetch about a reduction in fees, we do wish the verbiage allowed for a discount for surfboards traveling through California. We’re guessing that a significant amount of surfers traveling to Hawaii or any of the spectacular locales found on United’s famed Island Hopper connect through a California airport. As things currently read, those folks will still have to cough up the full $150 to $200 each way. Per United’s updated legalese: “Travelers with a connection through California are not eligible.”

That said, there are ways to beat even the standard bag fee – namely, by carrying a United credit card.

  • The United MileagePlus Club Card ($450 annual fee) is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months of opening the account. Perks include gratis United Club membership, plus free first and second checked bags.
  • The United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee, waived for the first year) is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months of opening the account. Perks include a free checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation, so long as you use the card to pay for your ticket (or any taxes and fees on an award ticket), priority boarding, two United Club passes each year and the unpublished benefit of additional award space.

To learn more on which airlines are the best (and cheapest) for those flying with sports equipment, take a look at our ultimate guide.

H/T: USA Today

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