Here's a BA update taken from a kitesurfing forum.
Summary: for now, you can (unofficially) keep travelling with kitebags for tickets booked before or after 6 November until BA find a solution to carrying them.
I have spent the last couple of weeks speaking to people at BA headquarters about the new policy. I have spoken to a number of individuals working my way round the organisation and eventually ended up speaking to a gentleman who describes himself as being ultimately responsible for the new policy.
The upshot is this:
1. It seems the reason they have implemented the new policy is because they are trying to reduce the number of items that have to be "manually handled". They are trying to reduce these items (a) because they cannot figure out how to price and collect extra fees for the extra handling and (b) because whenever manual handling is involved they seem to "lose" bags, for which they suffer cost and negative publicity. They reckon it is less hassle overall to just refuse to carry items that have to be manually handled.
2. That said, in the real world it would be just too damaging to their business to apply that blanket rule. So they make exceptions. A key exception is winter sports (skiing and snowboarding). He said these sports were excepted because BA are involved in specifically marketing to winter sports travellers. Reading between the lines of what my contact was saying, the real reason for the winter sports and golf exceptions is that BA simply couldn't handle the heat that would result from stopping carrying ski and golf equipment. The implication is that they think they can withstand the heat from us and the surfers.
3. For the technical among you he told me the maximum dimensions the BA baggage system can handle: fully automated can handle 1000 x 750 x 500 (all mm.). Semi-automated can handle 1350 x 500 x 350. Semi-automated means it gets some of the way on the belt system and then has to be manually handled for the remainder. I pointed out to him that the semi-automated size would allow some board bags to be carried that way. He was unmoved.
4. I advanced various arguments to him as to why they should consider creating a new exception for kiteboards including (a) that we spend a lot of money with the airline, like skiers, (b) that the routes we fly are mostly long haul which are BA's most profitable routes, (c) that we are a great demographic for an airline such as BA being (bluntly) relatively wealthy frequent travellers. He was unmoved.
5. He did say that BA were looking for a "solution" for people who want to travel with outsize bags and were looking for a "partner" who could carry our outsize luggage for us. I said this "solution" would be of no interest unless our boards effectively travelled on the same aircraft as the passenger. No-one is going to be bothered with sending their board out in advance or returning to an airport later to pick it up. It seems clear they are a long way from figuring out what their solution is. The bit of good news (in a temporary sense) is that he confirmed that all BA checkin staff have been instructed not to enforce the new rules until such times as BA makes available their alternative solution. We talked about this for a while so I made sure I understood. My contact was quite clear about this and he said it applied not just to tickets booked before 6 November but also to tickets booked afterwards -- apparently the policy "on the ground" is that you will not be turned away if you have a kiteboard that exceeds the maximum dimensions unless and until BA come up with an alternative solution to carrying them. I asked if they would make this clear on their website and he said no, they would not. I said I would post his reassurance online and he seemed content for me to do so (albeit not naming him) in the full understanding that people would rely on what he was saying when booking tickets.
I think that is all I can say for now.
Good luck with your travelling. May I suggest that if you book with someone other than BA that you email them to tell them so and say it is because of their crappy policy on kitebags. What did come across from my conversation is that BA will clearly adapt their policy if they feel the constituency they would otherwise **** off are powerful enough (skiers, golfers) but we aren't seen as being powerful enough yet.
Customer relations form:
If you book BA in reliance of the assurance posted above then good luck with it. He insisted that checkin staff systemwide had been told not to enforce the new policy until they had an alternative but clearly was not going to update BA's website to say that. I am sure you will understand that I personally cannot be held responsible if you act in reliance on this information but end up getting caught out.
Good luck everyone and keep the pressure up.