Are Figure Skates Allowed as Carry-On Luggage on Airplanes?

A close up of ice skates on ice
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The reason figure skaters take their skates on to a plane as carry-on luggage is because there is a chance that the skates may become lost or delayed if they are checked.

Figure skaters usually try to take their skates on planes as carry-on luggage, but since the September 11, 2001, tragedy, skaters can't always be certain if they can carry their skates on to a plane.

Some airlines won't allow figure skates to be carried on to a plane because they think that figure skating blades are sharp objects that could possibly be used as weapons.

Call the Airline in Advance

If a figure skater must travel by air, it is recommended that the skater checks in advance with the airline to see what they say about carrying skates on to a plane. Even if you are told it is okay, there is a chance you could be told by someone at the gate that your skates will need to be checked.

Cover Blades

Before boarding a plane, it has been suggested to put skate blades inside thick fuzzy soakers or inside skate guards. That way, the airline TSA authorities will not be bothered by a blade's sharpness or big toe picks.

Pack Skates in a Small Bag

Also, if the skates are packed in a small skate bag (such as a skate bag from Rainbo Sports) they will be considered the small personal item that is allowed to be carried onto the plane.

Before arriving at the airport, clearly mark a skate bag with your name, cell phone number, email address, and destination. If the airline insists on checking your skates, double check that the bag is actually marked to go to your final destination. Put the checked bag receipts in a safe place.

Consider Alternatives

Some airlines might not allow your skates to be carried on to the plane, but may allow your skates to be "gate-checked." Items that are "gate-checked" are put in a different area of the plane than checked items. Travelers carry those items up to the plane's entry door and then they are loaded onto the plane. When passengers exit the plane, items are picked up at the plane's entry door, rather than at baggage claim, before travelers head for the terminal. There have been some instances where items that have been "gate-checked" have temporarily been lost, so "gate-checking" doesn't guarantee that skates won't be misplaced.

If skates can't be carried onto a plane, some skaters find someone in their family, or at their rink or figure skating club who is driving instead of flying to a figure skating competition to bring their skates. That may not be the greatest idea since the skater will be away from his or her skates until the driver arrives with the skates.

A few skaters have suggested shipping their skates to a competition destination. There is a problem with that option since there is a possibility that the skates could arrive at the hotel before the skater arrives.

A Figure Skater's Horror Story: Airline Loses a Figure Skater's Skates

Delta Airlines lost Jordan McCreary's skates, but she competed anyway at the 2011 National Solo Dance Championships in rental skates. Her story makes it clear that carrying figure skates on to a plane is the best option if possible.

On Thursday, September 22, 2011, the McCreary family boarded a plane from Maryland and headed for the Nationals Solo Ice Dance Championships in Colorado.

The airline authorities in Maryland would not permit Jordan's skates and competition costume to be carried on to the plane; those items were required to be included as checked luggage. That decision caused a competitive figure skater's "nightmare." When the plane arrived in Denver, Jordan's skates and competition costume did not arrive. The items were missing.

The lost luggage department of Delta Airlines made it clear that they would search for the lost skates and competition items but made no promises that anything would be found in less than 24 hours.

It is unheard of for a figure skater to compete in a competition like the National Solo Dance Championships in rental skates. Even borrowing someone else's skates would have been a challenge for Jordan. Fortunately, Jordan McCreary was able to make the most out of what seemed like an impossible situation, but most of the time, skates lost by airlines mean that a figure skater can't compete.