With the ski season in the Northern Hemisphere in full swing, here’s a detailed look at how to fly with your gear – what the rules are and how to best pack your skis.
Continue reading to learn more about the topic including what the best ski bags for air travel are (my favorite’s the Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag).
Flying with Skis: What Are the Rules?
Unless you are flying private, you will encounter one of the following two scenarios:
- Ski equipment counts against your standard baggage allowance – If this is the case, you are lucky. Your ski gear (generally a combination of a ski bag and a boot bag) will count as one piece of baggage. That said, if your free allowance doesn’t include at least two checked bags, you will still have to pay extra fees to the extra piece of baggage.
- Ski equipment doesn’t count against your standard luggage allowance – If that’s the case, you will need to pay a “sports equipment fee” to fly with your skis. Usually, it’s about 50 or 60 dollars. In this case, if your ticket includes a free checked bag, you will be able to check your suitcase for free, of course.
While the rules vary depending on the airline (I take a look at the major airlines’ policies at the end of this article), roughly speaking, many full-service airlines count skis against standard allowance while most low-cost airlines charge a separate sports equipment fee.
As the rules for a specific airline can also change from time to time, I recommend googling “[airline you are flying with] ski” and checking the relevant section on your airline’s website.
One more thing to keep in mind is that depending on the airport, you will have to take your ski bag from the check-in counter where it will be tagged to a bulky baggage drop-off counter. If that’s the case, the check-in staff will instruct you to do so, so you don’t have to stress about whether or not that will be the case before your trip.
In case you are a snowboarder, you might want to check my article about flying with a snowboard instead.
How to Pack Skis for Air Travel
With ski equipment being expensive, fairly easy to break, and able to damage other baggage, it’s important to pack it properly before heading to the airport.
Given the shape and size of skis (and ski poles), the only reasonable option is to use a ski bag. You have more options when it comes to other gear such as boots and helmets.
By far the easiest thing you can do is get a ski bag like the Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller that is large enough to fit not only your skis and poles but also your boots and other miscellaneous equipment – or even your clothes.
Alternatively, you can get a dedicated ski boots bag (such as the Athletico Weekend Ski Boot Bag) or pack your boots and other equipment into a regular suitcase.
Some of the things to keep in mind before heading to the airport with your skis include:
- Make sure you know your airline’s policy as things such as whether or not ski boot bags count as a separate piece of luggage will affect how you will pack your ski equipment
- Get an appropriate bag since airlines won’t transfer your skis without them being packed properly, and even if they would, they would likely get damaged (or damage other baggage) along the way
- Put covers on the tips of your ski poles or wrap them in something to prevent any damage they could do to other items
- Pack some clothes around the skis if your airline allows it to give your bag additional padding
- Put a name/address tag on your ski bag just in case it gets lost along the way
- Lock your bag with a TSA-approved luggage lock to prevent it from being opened by anyone but the security staff while in transit
The Best Ski Bags for Air Travel
As mentioned above, regardless of the airline you are flying with, you will definitely need to get a ski bag and pack your gear properly before heading to the airport.
With some ski bags more suitable for flying than others, I compiled a list of the three that I believe that are the best for air travel.
Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag
If you plan to fly with your skis fairly frequently and are looking for something convenient and durable, you might want to start by looking at the Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag.
You can fit two pairs of skis and some clothes or a single pair of skis with a pair of boots in the bag. It’s got padded ski sleeves, reinforced top and bottom to prevent sagging, and a couple of zippered pockets to put your accessories in. Carrying it around the airport is a breeze as it’s equipped with a pair of wheels.
The bag comes in two colors – black and blue. It also comes in two sizes – one that fits skis up to 192 cm long and another one that fits skis up to 175 cm long.
Overall, while this bag would likely be overkill if you go skiing once every few years, it would be a good investment if you tend to go on a ski trip at least once or twice a year.
Athletico Two-Piece Ski and Boot Bag Combo
If you are on a budget and are looking for something to transport your ski equipment including ski boots in, then the Athletico Two-Piece Ski and Boot Bag Combo is a good option to consider.
Both the ski bag and the ski boot bag are made out of 600D water-resistant polyester, the same type of material as the Thule bag above. Both the ski bag and the boot bag are well-padded with a dense foam, making them ideal for air travel.
The ski bag, which comes in four different color variations, will fit most skis up to 200 cm long and has a roll-top design that lets you adjust the bag’s length to the length of your skis. There is also enough space in the bag for some clothes and accessories. As for the boot bag, it will fit most ski boots up to size 13.
Overall, if you do not mind the slight inconvenience of having to carry your skis and ski boots separately, this is a solution that will do the job perfectly fine for an affordable price without the need to shop for a ski bag and a ski boot bag separately.
Sportube Series 1 Single Ski Case
The two ski bags above are “softcases.” While they will generally do a great job at protecting your gear, if you prefer the maximum possible protection, then you should take a look at the Sportube Series 1 Single Ski Case (or the Sportube Series 3 Travel Case in case you are traveling with multiple pairs of skis).
The single tube is made in the United States out of high-density polyethylene plastic and is designed to fit a single set of alpine skis and poles or two sets of cross-country skis and poles.
The maximum width of skis it can fit is 168 mm and the maximum length is 212 cm. The case is also suitable for shorter skis (122 cm and longer) as it is telescopic. The case is equipped with wheels on one end and a removable handle on the other, making it easy to lug around an airport.
Overall, the case offers a good solution to fly with your skis. That said, the tube has a major, albeit obvious, downside – it doesn’t fit boots.
Major Airlines’ Ski Equipment Policies
Below are the ski equipment policies of the major US airlines, as well as some other large airlines from around the world.
As mentioned earlier, though, the policies can change, so I recommend checking your airline’s official website for the latest information too. You can do so by searching “[your airline] ski” on Google or clicking on the link to the airline’s website if you can find it in the list below.
A pair of skis, a pair of boots, and a helmet or a life preserver count as a single piece of luggage on American Airlines. Standard checked bag fees apply to skis.
See more details on the American Airlines website.
A ski bag can be checked in as part of your standard baggage allowance on British Airways. Provided that the bag does not exceed 190 x 75 x 65 centimeters (75 x 29.5 x 25.5 inches), the bag can also contain your clothes and other items – however, it needs to be within your weight allowance (or you will incur extra fees).
If you are traveling with a separate ski boots bag, you can carry it onboard if its within your carry-on baggage allowance. Otherwise, it will count as a separate piece of checked baggage.
See more details on the British Airways website.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Airlines counts a pair of skis and poles in an appropriate bag and a ski boot bag as one piece of luggage. If the two bags’ combined weight exceeds 50 pounds, excess luggage fees apply. Standard baggage dimensions can be exceeded without incurring oversize luggage charges.
See more details on the Delta Air Lines website.
A pair of skis, a pair of poles, and a pair of boots are considered to be one set of ski equipment. One set of ski equipment is considered one standard piece of baggage when flying with JetBlue.
While overweight fees apply, ski equipment is exempted from size limits. Keep in mind that if you are traveling with boots packed separately from skis, they need to be in a ski boot bag (i.e. they can’t be in a suitcase or a “random” duffel bag) to be considered part of the equipment.
See more details on the JetBlue website.
Allowing you to take one piece of skiing equipment with you in addition to your free baggage allowance (except for flights to and from the USA, Mexico, and Central America, and Economy Light fare flights), Lufthansa is fairly generous when it comes to ski equipment policy.
The size is restricted to items no longer than 200 cm and the maximum allowed weight is 32 kilograms (overweight fees apply).
See more details on the Lufthansa website.
Unsurprisingly, to fly with skis on Ryanair, you will need to pay a “ski equipment fee” of 45 EUR if paid at the time of booking or 50 EUR if paid online after booking or at the airport. Paying the fee will entitle you to carry a set of ski equipment that is up to 20 kilograms in weight.
See more details on the Ryanair website.
Southwest Airlines will count appropriately packed ski equipment as part of your standard baggage allowance. A set of skis, poles, and boots is counted as one piece of luggage even if you need to split it into two bags.
While the airline will accept ski equipment in a plastic bag, it will only do so if you sign a damage liability waiver.
See more details on the Southwest Airlines website.
Standard baggage fees apply to skis.
There is no mention of a ski bag and a ski boot bag counting as one on Spirit Airlines’ website, so, you might be better off putting your ski boots in a suitcase with the rest of your clothes or getting a bag that fits both your skis and boots.
See more details on the Spirit Airlines website.
Up to two pairs of skis in a single bag and a single boot bag are considered to be one piece of luggage and count towards your standard baggage allowance on United Airlines. The maximum combined weight of the above is 50 pounds, otherwise, overweight fees apply.
A boot bag without a pair of skis is still considered a piece of ski equipment.
See more details on the United Airlines website.
As you can see above, in many cases, you will be able to fly with skis for no extra charge or a fairly modest fee. As such, if you own a pair of skis, rather than renting them at your destination (especially if you are going for a longer trip) it is more economical to bring skis with you.
If you decide to do so, though, it is important to pack them properly before heading to the airport. The best way to do so is to use a dedicated ski bag.
In case you still don’t have one, I recommend starting your search for the best ski bag for air travel for you with one of these three:
- Thule RoundTrip Ski Roller Bag
- Athletico Padded Two-Piece Ski and Boot Bag Combo
- Sportube Series 1 Single Ski Case
First published on 2019/10/14. Last updated on 2024/01/10.