Surf’s Up Again At BA – Well If You Have A Very Short Board It Is!
BSA APPLAUDS NEW MOVE BUT SAYS IT’S NOT ENOUGH
It’s almost two years since British Airways (BA) announced a ban on surfboards on all its flights (6th Nov 2007) causing uproar in the surf world and resulting in thousands of surfers from across the globe refusing to fly with the company. However yesterday, the airline ushered in a partial lift on the ban, posting a statement on its website permitting boards up to a certain length (approx 6ft 3) on its flights from 09 October 2009. The British Surfing Association, the national governing body for the sport, reacted immediately, congratulating the airline on its move, but stressing that while it is a step in the right direction, the restrictions are still too limited to allow the majority of surfers to fly with their invaluable kit.
In 2007 when BA announced the shock ban, a huge number of surfers including the World Number One, Australian Mick Fanning, signed a petition and joined a Facebook site opposing the restrictions. Along with family, friends and fans, they have been joined by all those linked to the multi-million pound surf industry, including international governing bodies, photographers, film-makers, and key surf brands. Other airlines also publicly criticised the ban, and MP David Davis – a surfer himself – created an Early Day Motion in Parliament which was signed by over 60 eminent MPs.
“Prior to the 2007 ban, BA was known as the surfers’ favourite airline,” says Mark Wesson, an executive committee member of the BSA. ”Despite the immense global opposition at the time of the ban, BA remained staunch in its commitment to the move. However now it seems that their current financial situation – seeing a loss of £401 million this year – is helping to open their eyes and they are beginning to realise the business that surfers can bring back into the company.”
Mark continues, “We are, beyond a doubt, delighted that BA is finally seeing sense and is at least loosening the restrictions that are unfairly imposed on the members of the global surf community. We want to credit them for this move however a 6ft 3 surfboard is still very short and it means that a large number of surfers still cannot fly on BA’s extensive network. We would welcome the opportunity to talk to Mr Walsh and his team and explain the benefits they could reap if they extended the length of permissible boards.”
Chris Thomson is the founder and MD of Errant, the UK’s leading global surf travel operator. Like the BSA, he has welcomed the move towards allowing boards once again but is adamant that BA needs to understand the surf market further to enable it to rebuild this market within its business. Chris says, “It’s great to see BA eventually shifting its position on surfboard carriage however over two thirds of our clients travel with surfboards over 6’3″. In fact, even the majority of shortboarders take a least a 6’6′ or 6’8″ when they travel and lots of surfers need a board over 7ft. Like the BSA, I wish to credit the airline on this move – they’re obviously noticing the loss of business from surfers and trying to do something about it, but they need to allow longer boards before they can really say they are a truly surfer friendly airline again.”
Ed Temperley, of international surf forecasters, Magicseaweed.com, and creator of the original Facebook ‘BA Surfboard Ban Group’ said, “Since the ban started, not a week has passed without someone joining the group and either requesting about what to do or ranting about the ban. On behalf of all our Facebook members, who are over 14,000 in strength, and the million users of our site, I really need to make it clear to BA that whilst we are pleased that they are trying, they’re not trying hard enough. Like the BSA, we’d be delighted to help them really understand the surf market and the size of the boards that they need to carry so that we can open up the BA, and the One World Alliance network, for surfers again.”