Thursday, 18 July 2013

Climbing Gear on Flights

By Emma Harrington

DWS equipment - Safety first
Have you ever been on a long trip away and had a nightmare trying to squeeze all your climbing gear into one hold bag with a maximum allowance of 20 or 15kg? Your bag full of quickdraws, trad gear, helmet, climbing rope or rope ladders and safety equipment for DWS? With only a couple of t-shirts, a pair of pants and bar of soap to accompany you on your travels? Well here is some information you may find interesting!

Sporting luggage allowance and extra luggage allowance are separate things.  Sporting allowance is usually cheaper than paying for an extra luggage allowance, but currently climbing equipment is not classed as a sport on most airlines lists.
EasyJet offer an extra sporting bag allowance but only for certain listed sports. After reading this list and getting a lot of contradicting advice, we contact them to ask if they could add climbing equipment onto the list. They accept such items as sporting firearms as extra sporting hold luggage so why not climbing equipment.
The response from easyJet wasn’t very helpful.  When asked about adding climbing equipment to their sporting lists they didn’t really answer the question in full. They suggested that you should register for their easyJet e-mail updates on their website to keep up to date on any future changes. When asked about who to contact regarding getting climbing equipment onto their lists, they responded that regretfully there are no contact details which can be shared to their passengers to contact their head departments directly, and that suggestions as such are forwarded to their management internally.
So basically there are no means of contacting the relevant department!

EasyJet’s list of sports equipment can be found here  

So what can you take in your hand luggage?
It’s not really a case of what you can take; it’s more what you can’t take! Gatwick and Heathrow airport have security guidelines which include a whole selection of items that you cannot take on-board an aircraft. They mention items that could be used as potential weapons, and these could be interpreted as anything really.  The usual hand luggage restrictions are on the list which includes such items as no liquids, no sharp objects and no tools. Also listed are no blunt instruments, (which could be interpreted to be climbing equipment at the airlines discretion). They also mention that this is not an exhaustive list, and if in doubt please check with the airline you fly with.

(c) Tim Emmett

Heathrow Guidelines can be found here 
Gatwick Guidelines can be found here 

EasyJet now have new guidelines about hand luggage which may help with your clothing and bits and bobs of non climbing equipment. Guaranteed hand luggage to travel with you in the airline cabin is now a size of 50cm x 40cm x 20cm which shaves roughly 5cm off each dimension that they used to take as hand luggage i.e 56cm x  45cm x 25cm.

Climbing Equipment must go in the hold!
Checking with the airline easyJet, they responded that all the equipment used by climbers has to go in the hold as they can be used as a potential weapon on-board. EasyJet said that climbing equipment is a danger on-board and must go in the hold (ropes as well!).

What is classed as a weapon on board an aircraft?
What is exactly is classed as a weapon? Our smelly boots? Are they thinking that our ropes would be used to tie up the cabin crew and our trad gear used to knock them on the head? What about the bottles of wine you can buy in duty free, wouldn’t that be more harmful to knock someone out? 
Is it actual official procedure that all equipment is to be put in the hold?
There are many climbers who have taken their climbing equipment on the flight in their hand luggage and had no problems getting through security, but there are many others who have lost their expensive equipment too. So don't risk it. Put it in the hold!

EasyJet responded that the reason for not allowing the climbing equipment as hand luggage is because they can be used to harm others. Any item which has a sharp edge or can be used to harm any person or any property of the aircraft is classified as a weapon.
However they will be unable to comment on the other passengers who were allowed to take those items as hand luggage. This might be depended on the airport staff discretion.

EasyJet have an official policy for weapons which can be found here

So I need an extra bag, what are my options?

Paying for an extra bag which isn’t classed as sporting luggage allowance would be another option if
another bag is needed.

easyJet:

Extra luggage allowance: With easyJet you can currently pre-pay £7 per kg for extra luggage allowance which can work out quite expensive depending on the weight of your bag.

Sporting luggage allowance: You can also pay £27 for sports equipment allowance for 32kg. But climbing equipment is currently not on their list of items.

British Airways:

British Airways responded that only items that require special packing or handling or exceed the normal size limits are specified on ba.com as sporting equipment.

Sporting equipment that fits within the maximum dimensions for standard luggage is accepted without problems and can be booked as normal excess luggage.

Extra luggage allowance: Currently British Airways charge £34 for an extra 23kg bag. Which is actually quite a good deal compared to some other airlines that have been currently researched.

Ryan Air:

Excess luggage allowance fees vary.  A second bag (15kg) in low season will cost £40 and in high season £50. But do not get caught out! You need to pre-pay for these; otherwise you get charged an excess baggage fee of £20 per kg at the airport!

Sporting luggage allowance: Ryan Air charge £50 (pre-paid) for sporting equipment but they do not have climbing on their list of sporting equipment either.

Comparing 3 popular airlines:

•    EasyJet extra luggage fees for an extra 20kg bag would cost £140
•    BA extra luggage fees for an extra 23kg bag would cost £34
•    Ryan Air luggage fees for an extra 15kg would cost £40 in low season

(Please note that prices may change over time; always check with your airline)

Between these three airlines BA is better value if you need an extra bag. It does not matter if it is sporting equipment or not, as long as it meets the size limit and is no more than 23kg. Once easyJet class climbing gear as sporting equipment, then their sporting allowance will be the best option.   There is a big risk that climbing gear such as ropes and quickdraws in your hand luggage will be taken off you if you come across a security officer having a bad day. Even if in the past you have taken climbing equipment through with no problems, it doesn’t mean to say that they will let you again next time.  So a suggestion is to put all of your climbing gear in your hold luggage just to be safe!