The DirtBag Co. Guide to Dealing with Airline-Damaged Surfboards

The DirtBag Co. Guide to Dealing with Airline-Damaged Surfboards

So, the airline damaged your surfboard. Now what? If you’re traveling with boards, there’s nothing worse than landing for day one of your surf trip to find your quiver punctured, or worse, in pieces. The dread and anxiety that comes with opening your boardbag after a long flight is what drove us to create the Dirtbag, the world’s most padded surfboard bag. Damaged boards are so commonplace in the surf world that even the pros must deal with them when they travel on tour. John Florence’s Instagram post depicting the surreal damage to his quiver at the hands of Jet Blue garnered over 30,000 likes. Alex Gray’s American Airlines mutilated quiver earned him a spot on the evening news. Not every surfer can wield a massive social media following to force airlines to accept accountability. If your surfboards are damaged by the airlines, it’s unlikely you’ll be reimbursed for the damages, but there are a few key steps you can take to increase your chances. Continue reading below for The DirtBag Co. Guide to Dealing with Airline Damaged Surfboards.  

What are the airlines’ policies regarding damaged surfboards?

Airline damaged surfboards


Unfortunately for surfers everywhere, most US-based airlines have adopted a zero-liability policy unless the damaged surfboards are packed in a hard-shell case. Still, the argument against that policy is easy to make since hard-shell cases are hard to come by. If you’re traveling with boards, it’s worth looking into travel insurance that would cover the cost of damaged baggage or using a credit card with reliable travel insurance. If the damage is egregious and beyond repair, follow these steps to ensure you’re compensated properly.

Inspect your boards in the airport and report the damage before you leave!

 airline damaged surfboards

Once you leave the airport, the burden of proof all but dissolves when it comes to damaged surfboards. Having the physical evidence of damage to your surfboard documented and reported at the airport is key to having the airline admit even a shred of accountability. When you arrive at the baggage claim and receive your luggage, inspect the exterior of the bag and document in damage, like torn straps, rips, damaged zippers, abrasions, etc. Next, open the bag and inspect each board from tip to tail for dings and dents. If you find damage, document it by taking photos of the damage.   

File a Complaint Online

Once you get home or to your destination, you have a few days to file a complaint online, but the sooner, the better. When you file the complaint, submit a detailed account of the damage with photos and purchase receipts for the damaged boards. It is critical that you document the damage before having your boards repaired. Once the airline replies, submit the receipts or invoices for any repairs.

Follow up, again and again

The airlines will likely do all they can to avoid paying a reimbursement, including dragging their feet while responding. So, continue to contact the airline to check on the status of your claim.


Sporting equipment liability policy by the airline

Alaska Airlines


We cannot award compensation for damaged or missing items without a report on file. Hold on to your ticket receipts and baggage claim checks until your file is closed.

American Airlines Surfboard Policy 

“We will only be liable for any damage to sports equipment if:


  • They are in hard-sided case
  • The outside of the case is visibly damaged

Items not properly packed in a hard-sided case will be treated as fragile items.

We are not liable if and to the extent that the damage resulted from the inherent defect or quality of the bag.”


Delta Airlines Surfboard Policy  

“If you feel your baggage was damaged during a flight, bring it to the Delta Air Lines Baggage Office immediately after arrival. All damages must be evaluated in person by a Delta representative at the baggage service office. A Delta representative will direct you to fill out a damaged bag form if needed. You must report your claim within 24 hours for travel in the United States, and within 7 days for international travel.”

Hawaii Airlines Surfboard Policy 

Exclusions from Liability. We are not liable for the loss of, damage to, or delay in delivery of any of the following items:

  • …recreational and sporting goods, including but not limited to, archery equipment, baseball equipment, boogie/kite/skim/speed/skate boards, bowling equipment, camping equipment, fencing equipment, golfing equipment, gymnastic equipment, hockey/lacrosse sticks, javelins, oars, paintball equipment, parachutes and parasails, pool cues, skating equipment, tennis equipment, water skiing/snow skiing/snowboards/wakeboards, hang gliding equipment, kayaks/canoes, personal human transporters, fishing rods, sculls, surfboards, windsurfing sailboards, vaulting poles, scuba diving masks and pressure gauges, scopes, and sporting trophies…”

Jet Blue Surfboard Policy 

  • “Damage to checked sports equipment will only be covered if the item is checked inside a hard-sided case designed to protect its contents, and only if permitted items are in the case.
  • Any item checked inside a soft-sided container will be accepted, but not covered by liability”


Southwest Surfboard Policy 

“Unless a Southwest Airlines Employee determines that damage is due to normal wear and tear, Southwest Airlines is liable for the loss or damage of protruding parts of luggage and other articles of checked baggage (e.g., wheels, feet, pockets, hanger hooks, pull handles, straps, zippers, locks, security straps).

The liability of Southwest Airlines (if any) for the loss, damage, or delay in delivery of carryon or checked baggage is limited to the proven amount of damage or loss, not to exceed $3,800.00 per fare-paying Customer, including Customers traveling on Southwest points tickets, unless, at the time of check-in, the Customer has declared the value of the baggage to be in excess of $3,800.00 and purchased the appropriate excess valuation. Excess valuation cannot be declared on items subject to a limited release of liability.”

United Surfboard Policy 

Though United carefully handles and transports our customers′ luggage, your checked baggage may show evidence of wear based on normal handling. If you believe United damaged your checked baggage, please review this page to see how to report your claim. Damaged baggage cannot be reported via email or through the website.

United is not liable for the destruction, loss or damage of any baggage caused by:

  • Inherent defect of baggage
  • Poor quality of baggage
  • Baggage being over-packed
  • Ordinary wear and tear 

If your claim is denied

If your claim is denied by the airline, your best bet is to file a claim with the credit card company you used to purchase your flights. Send them the evidence of damage, the denial of the claim, and all purchase and repair receipts.

Avoid the headaches and hassle of dealing with the airlines after your surfboards are damaged by traveling with the Dirtbag, the world’s most padded surfboard travel bag. The Dirtbag allows you to travel stress-free to destinations near and far. With a built-in, patent-pending Universal Racking System, you can safely strap your board bag to any vehicle.