Flying & Scuba diving: 5 things you need to know

It is now so easy to fly to any country on the other side of the World in less than a day for a much accessible price than it used to be before. When you are a scuba diving traveller they are a couple of things to know to make your trip safer and cheaper.

Plan your flight schedule to always have 24 hours to rest before flying back home

no fly time dive computer

In the case of scuba diving and health issues, I always rely on DAN. Divers Alert Network (DAN) is a non-profit medical and research organisation dedicated to the safety and health of recreational scuba divers. As they explain really well on their website “The current position is: wait at least 12 hours after a single No Decompression Dive and 24 hours after repetitive, multiple days or decompression divingDAN’s recent results suggest that in the second case an interval of 17 hours will probably be safe, but the study is still going on and the official recommendation has not changed yet.”

This is the minimum requirement if you want to be safe:

Allow 12 hours at least before going diving. Flying long hours from one side to another of the globe is tiring and dehydrating. Most people never think about it but as you learnt during your open water it is better a have a good night of sleep and avoid alcohol before a dive the next day (alcohol is dehydrating). Here it is the same thing.

Do not forget that driving after scuba diving when your trip includes an altitude part will have the same risk. In the very popular area of South Sinai, in Egypt, it is especially true between Sharm-el-Sheikh and Dahab. Make sure to wait enough time after diving before driving.

Up to 48 hours if you did at some point any decompression diving. This is why after my trip to Cadaquès, in Northern Spain as I was doing multiple deep diving for almost a week, I went back to Paris by train: problem solved!

So I understand you want to make the most of your scuba diving holidays, but it doesn’t worth to put your life at risk. Just plan a day off and take it as an opportunity to go and discover what is around. What about this interesting museum? What about food sampling at the local market? Take inspiration from the destinations I cover on World Adventure Divers’ blog as I always include information about what do to discover above the water.

Choose a scuba diver friendly airline company or be loyal to an airline alliance

Even if you follow all the tips I’m giving on this blog to get rid of unnecessary kilos, we are not exactly travellers who travel light. So before you book your next flight, check what the allowance of check-in luggage is for at least one bag.

  • With low-cost companies, in Europe or Asia, this will always be an extra cost you need to add to the price of the flight ticket itself. Most of the time, you pay accordingly to the weight of your bag. So get organised and invest in a luggage scale (see picture above). Generally speaking, this additional cost is not necessarily too expensive if you can get a really good deal on your flight. But the time of 5€ last minute low-cost flight tickets has been over for a while now. So unless you can make an early booking, be sure to compare the total cost with other options.
  • With standard airlines companies, if you take an economy class ticket you will normally always have a checked in luggage of 23kg most of the time. With the backpack I take to the cabin and my optimised scuba diving bag with both clothes and gear, I always managed not to go over 23kg. Once more, the luggage scale is your best friend. Moreover, there is a general belief that these airlines are always the most expensive. This is not always true. If you book less than 3 months in advance, you can be a bit flexible on the time schedule and you take into account the cost to reach the airport, I found the standard airline companies to be very competitive at price most of the time with better departure hours. Be careful, because of the rough competition with low-cost companies, these companies have started to issue low-cost flight tickets with no luggage allowance, check well what is included in your fare.

I recently found out that some airline companies have special treatment for scuba divers. Always good to know. For example:

  • Etihad Airways gives free of charge an additional set of scuba diving equipment of 15kg maximum  update: Etihad has changed its conditions from the 1st of June 2017
  • Qatar Airlines gives a free bag of scuba diving gear of 10kg
  • Sri Lankan Airlines also give an extra luggage allowance of 10kg for scuba divers
  • Virgin Atlantic gives 1 piece of sports equipment at no charge, and for scuba diving, it is not less than a free bag of 23kg
  • Garuda Indonesia also gives a free bag of 23kg for scuba diving gear
  • Egypt Air is very scuba diver friendly, carrying many divers to the Red Sea they offer a total luggage allowance of 46kg.

My ultimate trick is to be loyal to an airline alliance. With Flying Blue, the loyalty program of the Skyteam alliance, from the Silver level only, you are already entitled to another free 23kg piece of luggage in economy class. To reach it you only need to make 15 flights per year (knowing that a return flight with a stopover counts for 4 flights; if you are a passionate traveller it should not be so complicated to reach). Most of the time, I don’t need more than 1 bag for the outbound flight. Yet I love to count on the second free bag for my inbound flight to bring back many goodies home!

Know which pieces of scuba diving equipment you can let in the hold luggage

My traveler scuba diving regulator

To let in the baggage hold:

  • Dry/Wetsuit
  • BCD
  • Fins
  • mask (to put in your fins to protect it and avoid carrying its box)
  • knife (obvious if you don’t want to lose it at security check)

For information, in any case, you would like to take tanks with you, you need special authorization at an additional cost from the airline company.

To take with you in the cabin:

  • Dive Computer (would you let your laptop in the hold luggage?)
  • Torchlight (usually not allowed by airlines in the hold luggage and the battery needs to be out)
  • Camera and housing (think to let the housing open)

The regulator issue:

There is a whole debate about it. The only valuable argument about not putting it in the hold luggage is according to many divers the high price of the equipment (same as dive computer and cameras) and the fear that is might be damaged or stolen. In my case, I always wrap my regulators in the wetsuit and towel inside my BCD and never got any issue. I tried a couple of times to travel with my regulator in my cabin luggage: Every time the security has bothered me. I always asked if I needed to take it out explaining what it was. I would be told no, and after the X-ray check, they would ask me to take everything out! I got tired of this so I decided to let the regulators in the hold luggage.

Take time to dry well your diving equipment to avoid extra kilos on the way back

my scuba diving gear drying in Moalboal Philippines

It seems obvious, but I cannot count the times I heard scuba divers telling me how pissed they were to have to pay for extra weight back at the airport whereas they carefully packed and weighed their luggage before going. They just forgot to dry properly their equipment. A wetsuit can easily contain 1 to 2kg of water. Have you thought about your BCD you didn’t empty properly when rinsing it? While you take some time off diving before your flight (see point 1), just think about putting your gear in a place with sun and wind ideally for quick drying time. If you are in a colder area, a heated room is what you need. I also always ask scuba diving centres if they have some space for me ideal to let my gear dry before my flight. Nobody has been refusing so far!

Become a packing pro, travel only with cabin luggage

Taking my scuba diving gear packing skills to the next level

Ultimately if you become very good at only taking what you really need, you might be able to keep it as light as with cabin luggage only. Check well the dimensions and maximum weight allowed for cabin luggage. The low-cost companies are very strict about it, be ready for inspection. Count carefully the clothes you need. With a 3mm wetsuit, a light regulator, a back inflation BCD and short fins (which are usually the most complicated item to fit in cabin luggage) you should be able to make it. Of course, it won’t be enough if you plan to dive in Iceland or Patagonia!

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Flying and Scuba diving 5 things you need to knowFlying and Scuba diving 5 things you need to know

  1. Great tips! I always have issue with packing my diving gear and underwater photography equipment. For diving trip, we usually book our flight through diving travel agency in the Netherlands, somehow they have great deal with the airlines so all scuba divers booked through them can have extra kilos even if we were flying with Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific..

    Reply

  2. Thank you so much for your input Indah, This is great to know that travel agencies can negotiate this!

    Reply

  3. Great post. one of the main things when I want to go scuba diving at a given location is the preparation for all equipment and accommodation. and most importantly, a waterproof camera. unfortunately I do not have this essential equipment. but this post is very interesting. thanks for the post.

    Reply

  4. […] The result? My scuba diving bag never weights more than 20 kg which means I never pay extra fee for overweight at the airport. Here you will find more tips about flying and scuba diving. […]

    Reply

  5. Great article!!!! I’m like you, I have a miles relationship so I usually have no issues!

    Reply

  6. […] As you know, on your last 24h, you cannot dive. Boring? No, just take the opportunity to go on one last adventure (Check my top tips about Flying & Scuba diving). […]

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  7. If you don’t have time to dry your wetsuit properly express post it home to yourself to save money on the extra baggage. I mailed my 7mm two piece home in an Australia Post express post pack for about $10 and it arrived only a day after I got home.

    Reply

    1. Awesome idea! Thank you Brenda for sharing!

      Reply

  8. Just an update, last year (2015) Garuda changed its policy: no more free/waiver for the extra weight of scuba diving gears. I had to pay extra weights last year.

    Reply

    1. That’s great to know! Thank you so much for sharing!

      Reply

  9. Interesting! I just found this article comparing 15 airlines luggage allowance for scuba diving and other water sports equipement: http://www.aph.com/community/know-before-you-go/aph-compares-airline-policies-flying-water-sports-equipment/

    Reply

  10. […] feels like to go solo on scuba diving trips, how I struggled to buy my very first dry suit or what to really pay attention to when flying for a scuba diving holiday, I got it, you love these articles! This article is actually an attempt to bring more personal […]

    Reply

  11. Important update: as of 1st of June 2017, Etihad has cancelled its policy to give free scuba diving bag allowance 😦 http://www.etihad.com/en-us/before-you-fly/baggage-information/baggage-guide/

    Reply

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