British Airways (BA) has announced a ban on kayaks and canoes on all flights (effective from 6th Nov).
Canoeing* is the most popular watersport in the UK and a large proportion of the 1.5 million people who canoe use British Airways to carry their boats abroad. Canoeists travel overseas and transport their boats by aeroplane for a wide variety of reasons, including; taking part in charity fund raising events, to give underprivileged children in developing countries the opportunity to experience canoeing and to develop their self confidence as well as finding new skills. Many others carry their canoes abroad to experience different waters, as currently, the opportunity to experience canoeing on such a wide variety of inland waters in England and Wales is very limited.
BA’s announcement and subsequent statements have caused uproar amongst the canoe and kayaking community who see this decision as a marginalisation of a dynamic sport which has two successful Olympic disciplines as part of it.
Canoeing is truly a sport for all. People of all ages and ability take part in this very varied and enjoyable sport. The proposed action will seriously limit the ability of British canoeists from travelling abroad to take part in various canoeing activities, and would have an impact on tourism in the country.
As the National Governing Body for Canoe Sport, the BCU spends tens of thousands of pounds transporting our athletes abroad via air, even on the occasions when the kayaks are able to travel by road.
The BCU are also concerned about the irony of 2008 being Olympic Year and the fact that our athletes will need to transport their equipment to pre-Olympic events, training camps and to the Olympics themselves in Beijing, China. This will significantly limit our athletes’ ability to prepare for important events. It will have further significant implications as we head towards the London 2012 Olympics. Canoeists from all over the world will need to train on the site of the London Olympics on a regular basis, and some will eventually participate in the Games. Like all sportsmen, these athletes need their equipment. The ban will also impact on those who plan to come and watch the Olympics and then visit the rest of the country, taking the opportunity to canoe where they can.
The BCU supports the British Surf Association who are also expressing real concerns about the action by BA and the limitations it will impose on their sport. Canoe Surfing is another extremely popular aspect of canoe sport and these restrictions will also impact greatly up on them.
Paul Owen, Chief Executive of the BCU comments:
“The decision by BA will restrict much of our canoeing activities and our ability to use waters abroad as preparation for international events. It will limit the opportunities for canoeist to go abroad for charitable and recreational purposes.
Canoeing is a fantastic sport with huge benefits and is enjoyed by so many, which is why it continues to be such a popular and rapidly growing sport and the announcement by BA will hamper its activities.”
* Canoeing is a generic term that includes kayaking