Friday, December 14, 2012

EVA Air LIES - Traveling with Surfboards

Over the years, I've become rather accustomed to the hassles of airline traveling. Between traveling to work, traveling to surf, and traveling just to travel, I spend a lot of time in airports and on planes. I easily take over a dozen domestic and international flights every year. I've gotten lost walking through Singapore's massive Changi Airport, frustrated waiting at the security check at Los Angeles International Airport, and amazed by a freshly crashed plane resting off the runway at Sumbawa's Brangbiji Airport. In fact, I composed this halfway through a 12-hour layover in Taipei's ShongShan Airport. 

I don't mind aimlessly wandering through terminals. I don't mind waiting in lines. I don't mind cramming myself into a middle seat for a fifteen hour flight. I don't even mind seeing a crashed plane at the end of the runway during landing (little disconcerting, but at least it's not mine).

I do mind being lied to, being called a liar, being mistreated, and being extorted by airlines. 

Any surfer that travels with boards has at least one horror story about airline travel. Expensive baggage fees are the norm, and broken boards are commonplace. It seems unfair when surfboards are not included as normal baggage (some carriers allow this, but many do not and charge hefty fees). I understand that surfboards are fragile and should require some extra care in handling. But it seems a bit overreaching for an airline to charge high baggage fees for surfboards AND require surfers to sign a waiver that the airline is not liable for any damage to these boards?

I always research airlines before booking my flight, so I will happily pay the excess baggage fee for my surfboards. I weigh the cost of the ticket, cost of extra baggage fees, travel time, etc. to determine what's best for me. I review the website and even call the customer service to confirm the baggage fees once I have my confirmation number. I've had problems with airlines over board baggage fees in the past but nothing compared to what my girlfriend and I experienced with EVA Air

I dropped my girlfriend Kristin off for a flight with EVA Air in November. She was flying from Los Angeles to the Philippines via Taipei. She had called the ticketing office the month before and informed them she would have one surfboard (she disclosed accurate dimensions) for her flight, and they advised it would cost $55; they agent even booked it into the computer. When she arrived at the airport to check-in, the clerk told her the fee for the board would be $150. After she told them the ticketing office quoted a price of $55, a lengthy discussion ensued involving multiple airline staff quoting prices of $55, $75, $100, $150, and $300! Eventually, it came down to $75 or the board doesn't go on the plane; she gave in and agreed to pay. 

Fast forward to the 10th of December. I've just dropped off my rental car and made my way to the Los Angeles Airport. I'm heading back to Bali via Taipei with EVA Air. I called the ticketing office the week before my flight and was quoted a price of $75 for my surfboard (I disclosed dimensions over the size of my bag); again, the agent tells me she's booked it into the computer. I arrive at the check-in counter all smiles, excited for some sun and surf. I travel light, so I have my carry-on backpack (6 kg) and my surfboard bag (18 kg). The friendly agent informs me I need to pay $300 for my board to travel. I laughed in shock before telling her I called in advance and was told it would cost $75. She responded saying that EVA Air "NEVER charges that little for a surfboard" (see above price quote). After she's looked through the computer and talked with the ticketing office, she "can't confirm that I was told this price" and that I will have to pay the $300 if I want to take my surfboard bag on the plane. I told her that she needed to have the conversation recordings pulled up to prove I was not lying (like most companies today, EVA Air records calls to ensure 'customer satisfaction'). She told me that this was "impossible".

An hour after our discussion had begun, the clerk informed me my board bag was small enough to qualify for a $100 fee. I told her this was unacceptable but she responded that I had two options: pay $100 or leave the surfboard behind at the airport. Good options. I'm at LAX, two and a half hours from home. Do I just abandon my board here? Call a friend to come and pick it up and store it for 8 months until I get back to California? They knew I was trapped and had to pay.

Is EVA Air doing this intentionally? Twice in the span of a few weeks, they quoted a low price for baggage fees when the passenger inquired, then increased it when they arrive at the airport. Then, EVA clerks bargained down the price until the passenger finally gave in. If this is how they operate, this is unethical business practice to say the least. Needless to say, it was certainly one of the worst ways I have ever started a trip. Thanks EVA Air!

Please feel free to share any stories involving baggage fees for surfboards or other 'over-sized baggage' in the comments below. I would love to make some suggestions on how to protect yourself from this type of experience, but I already tried myself! Maybe record your phone call with the airline?

21 comments:

  1. I only paid $50 when i flew to see you guys

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  2. Taiwanese hate surfers for some odd reason. Thats a fact. So this does not surprise me about Eva Air at all.

    Try going surfing there in a decent typhoon and you will be lucky if a cop doesn't try to beat you up for trying to enter the water. Even the general public will go out of their way to call the cops on you should they see you surfing during an approaching typhoon.

    Bunch of panzies!

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    1. First, Taiwanese don't hate surfers. They love surfing! They buy the boards, the gear, the clothes, and dye their hair blond. They sit on their boards in the line up, paddle for a wave, and watch it pass. Then they paddle back in. They love everything about surfing except for the amount of time it takes to master the skill. If you see someone ripping it up in Taiwan, odds are they are from Australia, NZ, or the USA. It is true about what Colonel Kilgor said Apocalypse Now - "Charlie don't surf."

      Second, seriously, Taiwanese cops beating you up? Taiwanese men are the most effeminate men on the planet. They might try to bitch slap but I wouldn't call that a beating. So, I hope you can understand why they might call the Coast Guard if they see a person in the water. Locals might think it's a Taiwanese man. The locals know Taiwanese men can barely surf, let alone not drown in a bathtub. The locals are just looking out for a percentage of the population that is "masculine challenged."

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  3. You need to get your quotes in writing.

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  4. Yes, getting quotes in writing may be a way of avoiding the hassles. Definitely another way of trying to protect oneself. What is Singapore Airlines policy for surfboards? Their ticket prices tend to be relatively high, something that needs to be considered is the combined total of ticket price and baggage fees; I definitely would have looked elsewhere if I had any idea that a $300 increase may happen!

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    1. I have flown Singapore Airlines to and from Australia and Indonesia and have not been charged any extra for my surfboards either time! In addition they have proved themselves to be the most courteous and accommodating airline I've had the pleasure of flying with. I would recommend them if you value drama-free travelling, and no surprises besides nice ones like hot towels while awaiting take-off. Also, very attractive flight attendants for your viewing pleasure.

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    2. Lion air 200k Bali to bima fixed price bima to Bali 200k per board extortion what do u do???virgin 200$ for 1 board and pack total under 23kg but they charge per bag now since may 2012. I will go garuday now once u put all the extras on these budget lines ??? U get some service on garuda

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  5. Easy solution to this: Singapore Airlines. While perhpas a bit more expensive, they NEVER charge for surfboards. Same goes for Qantas. As surfers, we do ourselves a huge disservice by continuing to support companies (AA, United, Eva, Air China, BA, etc.) that embrace policies clearly adverse to our interests. We have a choice as consumers. We should stop rewarding "race to the bottom" pricing and start rewarding companies that care enough about our business to bother with accomodation.

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    1. Yes! I think this is true. Supporting companies that take advantage is part of the problem. Tickets may be prices lowest but not once you include your boards. I don't understand how my 1 checked baggage that weighs 18 kg (my board bag) can be more of a hassle or take up more room than other passengers carrying 2 50 kg suitcases.

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    2. That's one of the reasons it's such a scam. There is no way my board bag weighs even close to what a golf bag does. Then they tell you it's the space it takes up and the "special" handling. Yes the bag is longer than a suitcase but it doesn't take up that much more space and if they load the bags first they can just throw the board bags on top. That "special" handling they tell you about usually consists of a few boneheads abusing your board bag because they have a crap job and you're going on a surf trip. I flew United to San Diego once and when we were waiting to get off the plane a lady asked if that was my board bag they were unloading. When I told her it was she said she saw them abusing it in Houston where we had a layover. A big portion of the rail was crushed and when I spoke to the baggage claim lady she told me I didn't pack it well enough. I usually look like I've just done a P90X workout after I've packed my board. After leaving this dunce's office I took my board to Roper's and they hooked me up. I called customer service, sent pics of the damage and a nice customer service girl sent me a prepaid Visa for the amount of the repair. It's just insane what you have to go through. I've resorted to buying a board on craigslist once I get to where I'm going and reselling it before I leave. It usually costs me about $100 once all is said and done.

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  6. I think boards fly free on Singapore

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  7. Last I looked, Cathay was $600 each way for a board. They're all turning into bastards these days...

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    1. $600 each way for a board? That is just ridiculous!

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  8. Flew to bali from lax mid november, luckily i printed out the email correspondence my travel agent had w eva rep stating $55 per board.
    Next time forget bringing the boards, will just have pyzel send the file to ripcurl factory and board will be ready when I arrive.

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  9. Just flew from Bangkok to SFO... expecting to pay 55-75 for my small 6 foot board bag... Got to the counter and it was $100 for the board and another $150.00 extra/oversize bag fee... $ 250.00 sucks... I've been flying EVA since they opened... I have never been charged this much !! They told me it was a new policy since September 2012 to charge both Board and excess in addition..

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  10. Just got off the phone with EVA air. Took forever to get through. Could barely understand the guy. Long story short: Their policy for surfboards sucks.

    Over 62" (5'2"): $100
    Over 80" (6'6")$300

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  11. I flew singapore airlines to bali and didnt have to pay for my board bags, however when i arrivedin Denpasar it was very clear that someone had taken the forked end of a hammer (i took a hammer and it matched up perfectly to the dents) and smashed my board bag 4 or 5 times, putting holes in the deck of my step up. While every other aspect of my flight was great they wanted nothing to do with the damaged bag and refused to communicate with me about it on any level. thankfully it only cost about 5 bucks to get it fixed.

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  12. When getting a "quote" for board bag fees from a CSR of your airline, simply tell them to notate your ticket. There's an area on the e-ticket (every airline has this) for notes. Get their name, dept, etc. Confirm that they will enter this note on the date you are speaking. THEN, call back AGAIN an hour later and from any CSR, have them go to the notes section and have them read the note re: the board bag fee. This confirms it's there and you can use it for reference when you get to the ticket counter. The problem isn't the board bag fees per se, it's the person who, at that very moment you are inquiring/paying for the fee... what screen he/she's looking at re baggage fees. Some fees differ depending on your point of origin. Some fees, the amount of, are based on specific limitations/restrictions being exceeded... does it exceed this linear length? if it does and it also exceeds excess baggage weight, etc. (e.g. ANA - very confusing). I was researching fares and BB fees for HNL-CGK. I called Philippine Airlines 3x and received 3 different BB fees - $150/bag, $150/board, the excess baggage (length, weight, etc) fees as applicable.

    What I'm trying to say is that it is extremely common to be quoted a fee on the phone, see a fee on the website, etc. but when you get to the check-in desk, the fee is entirely different. Happens all the time with many airlines and re: issues not only w/ BB fees. Protect yourself w/ the "Please notate my ticket re:..." It's worked for me every single time, a few times in my favor when the fee quoted on the phone was less than what it really should have been (according to the airline website)

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