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Originally Posted by Chris Chaput, Bob Swartz (an Inside Swartz commentary), and Chris McBride on Street Luge BBS
If an airline tells you that you "can't take that thing on board the plane" don't panic. Don't even show signs of concern. Tell him/her that you are a professional racer and say "I fly XYZ airlines all the time with my luge. One time I saw one of the baggage handlers riding it on the tarmac!". This is a great "visual" for them to ponder. It's all about a positive outcome. Instead of saying "I've never had a problem before..." which puts them in a power position and makes them defensive, say "I've always had great luck and I'm sure you can help me out". I've been stopped several times and have NEVER had to pay a dime extra or been denied. Be persistent. If you get stuck, ask them to call their supervisor because "they've always been very helpful in the past". Sometimes just wearing them down with joy and humor yields you the old "okay, just this once but don't try this again..." response, especially if there is a large (angry) line behind you. Always thank them and offer them a free lesson and have them watch for you on the X-Games. What's amazing to me is this stuff actually works!
I have never paid extra to fly my gear either. Here are few other tips to help make your check in smooth and equipment safe.
1. "Try" to keep the total length to under 61 inches. If you cant and they bitch, politely talk about if they charge for snow ski's or not. If your flights include a small commuter plane then it better be less than 61 inches or it don't fit.
2. Do not pack any single bag, box, or crate over 70lbs (leave room for scale differences) the 70 LBS is a safety and OSHA rule the airlines have.
3. If you have your equipment in a bag, try not to have any handles that can be used by the baggage handlers to launch your equipment in a record attempt at their luggage basketball game.
4. Let the luge be seen. If it looks different and strange the baggage handlers show an interest and almost always set it aside, load the plane and put the luge on TOP of everything else.
5. Always block, wrap or remove the front wheels. If you leave the rear wheels on it can be wheeled around easier and may even be a nice luggage cart for you, But if you leave the front wheels rolling it can become a hazard and play toy. I also saw my luge rolling on the tarmac once, but it was unattended and rolling into the path of a plane trying to park at the jetway. (They cant hear you banging on the window and yelling through the glass at the gate by the way).
6. good idea to not have your best wheels and axles on while shipping.
7. Put an extra label on the outside that has the dates of travel and address and contact info for where you are racing. It may have a better chance of finding you before the race instead of being sent back home when it misses your flight.
Gerhart is right about Tobi (Travel Agent). I did not realize the hidden benefit of getting tickets from him until this trip when I traveled extra heavy. He sets up travel for traveling athletes around the world and has negotiated double the weight allowance for gear into his already good fare. Cool Huh?
Just my thoughts from experiences from over 63 flights with my equipment.
There are many ways to transport your luge. Some people have been known to put it on the plane, number plate, wheels and all. Some people have wrapped it, others have put it in cardboard (still as one piece) One advantage to this, is you now have a wheeled instrument to move the rest of your equipment with. I used to strip everything, but still shipped it as one large item. IF you do this, two things: If its more than 90 inches long they may not let you ship it, you have to ship it freight. Otherwise they may charge you an excess baggage fee which is normally $50, each way! Also there is more of a chance that the luge will be damaged.
If you plan on flying regularly I recommend that you build a luge that breaks down. Mine fits in a snowboard bag, I've also seen people fit them into golf bags, or specially made bags. There are three advantages here, one is they are easy to carry, they are slightly more protected. And finally most airlines won't charge an excess fee for "normal" sporting goods (skis, snowboards, golf bags) Another advantage I've found is that I can pack some things in the luge bag, which got me from three bags down to two. (Another key point, most airlines don't like you to ship more than two checked bags).
Also remember that they will generally charge you if the bag is over 70 lbs.
One advantage to not wrapping your luge is that it makes a great conversation piece (well so is carrying a snowboard bag in the middle of summer!)