This past Fall, I went to northcentral Minnesota for a week of pike and bass flyfishing to celebrate one of my brother's 50th birthday. Since I was flying on 3 different airlines - Alaska, Delta and Southwest - I checked with each carrier about taking a rod tube as carry-on luggage. All of them told me that they can no longer accept rod tubes as carry-on, so I had to check it as regular checked luggage, at $20 to $25 per leg of the trip...$70 total. So, call your airline to make sure.
Ship it ahead, you just need someone to expect/receive on the other end. I've had many shipments to the UK, Ireland and Scotland, every single one (just US Mail) has been delivered. If going out side CONUS you do have to fill out a Custom's Declaration ... big deal ... takes less than two minutes.
Just got a light rod last week, the fellow just slapped a mailing label on the rod tube and posted off to me.
I built a heavy pvc tube precisely for sending rods. I've shipped it from Ohio to South Carolina, Wisconsin and north Carolina several times with no issues. I bought the heaviest pvc, schedule 80 I think, that they had at home depot, put a solid cap on one end and a screw closure clean out cap on the other. I put 4" thick heavy foam in the closed end and glued it in place. I bubble wrap the rods so they can't flop around and put one or more pieces of the same foam in behind them to fill the space to the opening cap. I think it cost about $35 to build, pvc, caps, foam and glue. After I close it up, I tape over the clean out cap to make sure it will stay closed. It may be overbuilt, but it has got the job done.
I use a Sportube which is pretty sturdy, though I heard of Kis cases (similar and the forerunner to these sorts of tubes) being crushed by luggage trucks. We've had to use cases like these since 911 flying internationally so I've just gotten used to it.
I also (depending on airline) have to pay for an extra piece of luggage per flight (something like £35 per leg) for the rodcase, though Air Canada I believe has 2 pieces gratis as standard with most major airlines 1 and the cheapo ones none.
Destination travel is expensive business these days!
Using a courier within the UK is cost effective (possibly the same for other countries) as we have a few budget carriers, however going internationally is prohibitive, equivalent to buying another airline seat.
I've flows with a few rod tubes on both Alaska and Hawaiian airlines free of charge. Personally, I've found that both of those carriers are a fair bit more "customer service" oriented and will work with you a bit more on a few things. With Alaska airlines, I have been flying with both a long PVC tube for my switch and spey rods for the last few years and they have had zero issues with me tucking into one of the over head bins. One flight, the flight attendant caught me on my way onto the plane and and suggested that I would need to find one of the "double" overhead bins as some of them would be too short for the tube. On another flight the plane was too small for me to place the tube in the overhead bin so they did a "gate check" and I was able to pick it up on the tarmac at the end of the flight.
As for the Rod/Reel combination cases, I have used those with single hand rods for cary on luggage with no issues. I think for spey rods though, I would rather put them into a PVC tube as it will fit behind other luggage in the overhead bins. This means less issues fitting it in, and less chances of annoying the airline staff, and possibly less stringent regulations in the years to come. You can build a very cheap tube with PVC that is also very tough and durable (great if you do have to check it). I made mine with 4" pipe, and I can just manage to fit 3 rods into it as long as the lengths are a bit different and I alternate and stagger the handles a bit. Something you might consider.
A forum community dedicated to Spey casting, fishing, flies, and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about trails, licenses, fishing, game laws, styles, reviews, optics, accessories, classifieds, and more!