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Ask the Scuba Guru - Air Travel Tips for Divers

With rising fuel costs, security tariffs and the like, things are tough for the airlines. But, some airlines have forgotten that people fly places to do things. So, when checking in for flights, clerks appear astonished that passengers actually want to take some baggage. That means we want to bring our golf clubs, tennis rackets, skis . . . and yes, dive gear.

Fortunately, here are a few tips that make air travel a bit easier, even for people like us divers who have the audacity to bring baggage so we can do things. Check these out:

  • Drive, don’t fly. This isn’t always an option, but it can be. For short distance travel to a mainland dive destination, by the time you add in the preflight arrival time, post flight, get-your-bags, car rental and so on, it may not be much longer or more expensive to simply drive – with your scuba gear, tennis racket and whatever else along for the ride.
  • Fly the same airline. It’s absolutely worth getting elite frequent flier status, even if, to get the miles, you have to connect through Vancouver when flying from Dallas to Miami. Grand Poohba status gives you benefits over other steerage, uh, coach, passengers, not the least of which is usually a free checked bag.
  • Weigh your bags. A big issue for sportspeople is baggage weight. Check more than two bags or have one that weighs more than 32 kilograms/70 pounds and you will personally pay for all the fuel the plane uses on the flight. Don’t have a bag that weighs 36 kilograms/80 pounds and another 9 kilograms/20 pounds. Rearrange stuff so they both weigh under 23 kilograms/50 pounds, and maximize whatever you’re allowed to carry on free. You can get a portable luggage scale like this one for under $20 US to make it easy. Yes, your regulator will snuggle with your underwear, but it will be fine. Rearrange at your destination. Write down how you packed so your weight’s right for the trip home.
  • Cylinders and weights. Bring your own BCD, regulator and computer, but unless you’re going some place like Minicoy Island, you can rent cylinders and weights there. (And for all I know, you can get them on Minicoy.
  • Ship stuff ahead. Unlike recreational divers, tec divers may have more gear than reasonably flies within weight limits. Their new thing is to ship stuff a couple weeks ahead as freight. It’s a fraction of the excess baggage cost, but you need someone to receive it for you. On the last day, you freight it home. This isn’t cost effective to most islands, but for a California, USA diver visiting the Florida Gulf area in the States, for example, it is.
  • Bring your own snacks. Some airlines charge absurd prices for a square of questionable meat on a stale roll, and because their convenience is more important than ours, they don’t take cash. When flying internationally, though, food items are usually subject to inspection when you enter a country – so gobble it all up on the way.