Can you carry tennis rackets on a plane? Are racquets allowed on an airplane?

The definitive guide to flying with tennis rackets

by Alan June 01, 2017 5 Comments

One of the perennial questions for tennis players taking a flight with their equipment is whether or not rackets can be carried onto the plane as hand luggage.

This topic has perplexed us too: sometimes we have been able to carry on a racket bag, other times we have been forced to check it and on rare occasions we've taken our rackets out and brought them on board by hand (all while flying with the same airline, no less).

So, we thought it would be helpful to do some in-depth research into the policies of different airlines to get a current grasp on what is allowed.

Spoiler alert: For most airlines, tennis rackets are too long to fit the cabin baggage dimensions if they are enforced to the letter. However, as with many aspects of air travel, there is some nuance around which class you are flying in and the stance of the staff you encounter that makes the situation less black-and-white than it may appear at first glance. 

What we found

The first thing to know is that the TSA allows tennis rackets to be carried on board. The same is true of most equivalent agencies worldwide, including the EU (see EU policy here). So it is up to the individual airlines whether they want to allow rackets on board their flights or not. 

Many airlines do not specifically mention tennis rackets (or rackets in general) in their policies, even in the "sporting goods" section. This is quite a departure from the aftermath of 9/11 when tennis rackets were explicitly classified as weapons by most airlines and had to be checked.

Thus, the main criteria to consider when travelling with your rackets is if the bag fits into the dimensions specified for your carry on luggage. Obviously the length of the racket is the dimension that causes issues. Currently 29in or 74cm is the maximum racket length allowed in competitive tennis (with 98% of all rackets being 27in or 69cm), so keep this in mind when you’re sizing up your frames and bag.

As you can see in the table below, even though the length of rackets appears to a be a deal-breaker for many airlines, we have all experienced instances where check-in agents and security personnel have made seemingly arbitrary decisions (for better or worse) about the acceptability of a given piece of luggage.

Adding complexity to the issue, on full flights the bigger pieces of carry on luggage are usually the first to be targeted for a transfer to the hold. This isn’t ideal if you were transporting your rackets in a soft bag that could get damaged among hard cases underneath the plane.

Without further adieu, here is an overview of the main global airlines' policies pertaining to hand luggage in economy class: 

Airline

Hand luggage dimensions Hand luggage weight Do rackets fit the criteria? Explicit reference to tennis rackets? Does the Epirus backpack* fit? Does the Epirus 24 hour bag* fit? Link to policy

American Airlines

22 x 14 x 9 in

56 x 36 x 23 cm

Not specified

No

View

Yes

Yes

View

Air Canada

21.5 x 9 x 15.5 in

55 x 23 x 40 cm

Must be light enough to store in the overhead bin unassisted

No, but they are allowed as an exception

Explicitly allowed

Yes

Yes

View

Air France

21.7 x 13.8 x 9.9 in

55 x 35 x 25 cm

26 lbs // 12kg

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

British Airways

22 x 18 x 10 in

56 x 45 x 25 cm

51lbs // 23kg

No

Tennis rackets are prohibited

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Cathay Pacific

22  x 14 x 9 in

56 x 36 x 23 cm

Not specified

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Delta

22 x 14 x 9 in 

56 x 35 x  23 cm

Sum of length, width and height should not exceed 45 in (115 cm)

Not specified

Yes

Explicitly allowed

Yes

Yes

 

 

View

 

 

EasyJet

22 x 18 x 10 in

56 x 45 x 25 cm

Not specified

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Emirates

22 x 15 x 8 in

55 x 38 x 20 cm

Not specified

No

Subject to the same weight and dimensions as standard luggage

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Lufthansa

22 x 16 x 9 in

55 x 40 x 23 cm

Not specified

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Ryanair 22 x 16 x 8 in

55 x 40 x 20 cm
22lbs // 10 kg No Tennis rackets are prohibited Yes Yes View

Singapore Airlines

Sum of length, width and height of each piece should not exceed 45 in (115 cm)

15lbs // 7kg

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Quantas

22 x 14 x 9 in

56 x 36 x 23 cm

Not specified

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Turkish Airlines

22 x 16 x 9 in

55 x 40x 23 cm

18lbs // 8kg

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

Virgin Atlantic

22 x 14 x 9 in

23 x 36 x 56 cm

22lbs // 10kg

No

No

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

United Airlines

22 x 14 x 9 in

22 x 35 x 56 cm

Not specified

No - but are allowed anyway

Explicitly allowed

Yes

Yes

 

View

 

 * Reference is to bag dimensions without rackets

Checking your rackets

Thinking of avoiding the process of attempting to carry on your rackets altogether and plan to check them instead? There are a couple of things to consider if you use this strategy.

First, it goes without saying that they will have to be wrapped in a material like bubble wrap to protect them from getting damaged if you are using a soft bag. Wrapping them individually is your safest option.

Second, extreme temperature changes in the hold can alter your string tension. If you are using a string type that is particularly delicate like natural gut, you might find that your setup has materially changed when you next hit.

If you have to check your rackets, packing them in a hard case with ample padding is your best bet.

Key takeaways

If you are flying economy on most global airlines you might struggle to carry on a bag big enough to hold your rackets. However, if you have strong negotiating skills, ample charm or a friendly check-in agent you might be able to sneak a bag with your rackets into the overhead compartment.

Because this is far from a guarantee, the most prudent choice is to choose a checked bag large enough to fit your rackets and bring along some bubble wrap in the event you're forced to improvise and transfer your rackets into your biggest piece of luggage destined for the hold of your plane.

What has your experience been? Have you been able to carry your rackets on the plane? Have you ever been stopped? Let us know in the comments below.

Upgrade your tennis luggage

Epirus Tennis Bag Collection

If you’re planning on booking a trip, consider upgrading your luggage with a tennis bag from the Epirus collection. Timeless and versatile, Epirus bags are made by hand in small batches ensuring exemplary attention to detail. Built for tennis and travel, each bag takes you from the court, to work, to the gym and then out to dinner in style. View the collection here.




Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

Author



5 Responses

John
John

September 25, 2018

The only time I was told I could not carry my racquet on was flying out of Manchester airport (England) to New York 2 years ago – and the agent there was very helpful and wrapped it for me and checked it safely. He told me that it was the airport’s policy there, not the airline (which I think was Delta from memory). Otherwise I’ve taken one racquet in my tennis backpack, handle sticking out, through New York, London, Amsterdam, Hawaii, and Sydney with little trouble – but I always ask at the check-in desk. And it has always fit easily into the (back of) the overhead bins. Is it, perhaps, more of a problem on domestic flights on smaller planes?

Mike Graves
Mike Graves

July 29, 2018

Your article re: Travelling with racquet in hand luggage, I had always travelled in 70’s/80’s with it in my hand luggage, this is of course before all of todays shenanigans! Also strangely around this time I had only ever seen one traveller in departures ever with a racquet & he was travelling on an internal UK flight.

Jennifer Collins
Jennifer Collins

January 29, 2018

Tennis as a sport needs more attention and it is so refreshing to see a blog on my favorite sport. I am sure there are other tennis lovers out there who would love to be a part of the community. Thanks so much for sharing.

Best,
Jennifer

Athol
Athol

January 26, 2018

Qatar … fine from any airport going to Doha but from Doha to other airports (eg Cape Town) also a problem with carry-on but after a lot of arguing they allowed it on-board. Not sure if I will use Qatar again.

Asif
Asif

September 09, 2017

On a recent trip from Dallas, TX to Karachi on Qatar Air, my squash racquets made it safely in a squash bag (3 racquets in the bag plus usual squash gear) from DFW to Doha, Qatar as carry-on. Going through security in Doha to board the flight to Karachi, was told to better check it in. FYI!

Leave a comment


Also in Tennis Hacks

US Open 2018 cheat sheet
US Open 2018 cheat sheet

by Alan Kelly August 20, 2018

Haven't caught much of the US Open Series this summer but plan to attend or watch the US Open? We have a cheat sheet that will help you get a sense of the favourites (Nadal, Novak, Fed, Anderson, Halep, Stephens, Bertens), the long shots (Wawrinka, Sasha Zverev, Tsitispas, Serena, Kvitova) and seeds that are likely to be upset early (Dimitrov, Thiem, Wozniacki).

Read More

A guide to the best tennis holiday resorts in the world
A guide to the best tennis holiday resorts in the world

by Alan Kelly August 11, 2018

Love playing tennis when you're on holiday? We have created a list of world class resorts with tennis courts you'll want to look into. Whether you want to invest significant time improving your game with high calibre professionals at the best academies in the world or just play a bit of tennis before happy hour, you will find suitable options to consider. Bon voyage! 

Read More

US Open USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
The 2018 guide to attending the US Open

by Kristin Price July 30, 2018

Headed to the US Open this year? With both the ATP and WTA Tours recovering from an injury-plagued 2017 it should be an exceptional event. To help kick off your planning, this event guide will help you book tickets, find your way to the venue, determine where to stay and more...

Read More