Out of Office Reply: Artfully Dodging Airline Fees

Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits

All the traveling essentials. 4+ boards, week supply of Whole Foods, guitar, and a few clothing textiles. Kelly Slater airport run.

All the traveling essentials: 4+ boards, week’s supply of Whole Foods, guitar, and a few textiles. Kelly Slater airport run. Get ready to pony up, champ. Photo: Sherm



Out of Office Reply

You get to the airport early, dragging a full boardbag behind you. There’s no line to check in, and three airline agents smile in your direction like game-show models. In front of door number one, a cute blonde in her mid-twenties. Door number two, a dude in a suit with wired glasses. And in front of door number three, a portly woman in her early forties. Other passengers start to filter in behind you. Decision time. Which agent is most likely to cut you a break on the two (OK…three) rip sticks stuffed inside your bag?

The most widely held belief among surf travelers is that your best chance is the young female agent. She’s cool, she’s flirty, and she knows these charges are outrageous.

And if you’re Julian Wilson, that probably works. But shuffling up to that babe, her hair pulled back in a tight bun and a little hat perched just so, isn’t your best bet. Sure, you’re handsome and charming and you make her giggle by asking if she wants to come to Barbados. But she’s green. She has no pull. When you ask her so nicely, flashing those Crest White Strip teeth of yours, if she’d be so kind as to excuse the excess baggage fee, she’ll panic and “have to go ask her manager.” And the manager missed your introductory wit and charisma. All the manager sees is this pest pulling her away from an all-time high score on Angry Birds. You lose. You pay now. And by the way, how many boards are in that bag?


When you travel with this many boards, you need a second boardbag and enlist help.

“Let’s see — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8… Two, there are two boards in there.” [Insert big ol’ shit-eating grin.] Photo: Sherm


Solution: Approach the other ticketing agent, the bigger, older woman — the one who hasn’t enjoyed attention from a younger man since being courted by her deadbeat ex at a Prince concert in ‘88. Your smile works on her. She’d love to go to Barbados. And no, she’s not wearing contacts, those are her real eyes! She knows you’re bullshiting but doesn’t care. The flattery makes her feel young. Glowing. Be a shame to spoil such a lovely moment by asking for money. Besides, she’s been with the airline long enough to know how to pull some strings.

“Lemme just waive the surfboard fee for you, sweetie.”

“Good looks and a generous soul. You’re too much!”

“Oh, stop.” —Taylor Paul