One constantly asked question for tennis players taking planes with their racket is whether or not they can be carried as hand luggage. For us tennis players, our racket is the most important thing to us, besides tennis shoes.
We get racket stringers to string them to our specifications, to what we love, we make sure they are ready for battle in another part of the world. So having even the slightest chance of our rackets breaking is a big no-no
But strangely sometimes we can bring our rackets up the plan, other times we have to check them in. Are the rules not clear or are the staff not well informed?
For most airlines, tennis rackets might be slightly too long to fit the cabin baggage dimensions if they are enforced to the letter.
However, as with many aspects of travel, there is some luck involved, for example- which class you are flying in and the stance of the staff you encounter that makes the situation less strict than it may appear.
The number one thing to know is that the TSA allows tennis rackets to be carried on board. The same is true of most other 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.
The main point to consider when travelling with your rackets is if the bag fits into the dimensions specified for your carry on luggage.
Tennis rackets at 29in (74cm) is the maximum racket length allowed in competitive tennis (with 98% of all rackets being 27in or 69cm).
Check in your rackets
Sometimes it is just better to save yourself the hassle of arguing or trying to beat the check in staff and just check in your rackets! I have done it countless times and nothing went wrong. Except for a tear in my Head travel bag.
What i usually do is buy bubble wrap to protect my rackets, and i bring about 5-6 rackets for my tournaments. I just wrap them altogether but you can individually wrap them if you want to, but it will take up a lot of space unless you are only bringing 1 or 2 rackets. I also put my clothes around the rackets for extra protection and no hard objects around it!
My strings are also mainly polyester or if i were to use natural gut i would not string my rackets only till i reach the tournament site to ensure that the temperature does not destroy the gut strings.
I usually put them in my 12 pack tennis bag and get the airport staff to label fragile on it. But if you are worried, just fit them into a huge hard case luggage!
If you are flying economy on most global airlines you might struggle to carry on a bag big enough to hold your rackets. Especially when you go in late, some people might have already used your cabin compartment.
However, if you have good negotiating skills, charm, a friendly check-in agent, amazing luck or the first few up the plane, you might be able to sneak a bag with your rackets into the overhead compartment.
Because this is far from a guarantee, the smartest 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 it!