Since 9/11, figure skates are now considered a hazardous item and have not been allowed as carry-on luggage on commercial air carriers. I'm not sure why.
Usually, the only people that tend to get injured by skates are the people who are actually wearing them, or their partners. To be honest, I've only ever flown with my skates twice, but neither time did I have any airline staff volunteer to try a split twist or side by side flying camel combo with me. For both flights, the staff was firm about the skates being checked.
One time, the lady at the Air Canada check-in counter had a daughter in competitive figure skating. She understood how much the skates were worth and that no, we couldn't just go buy a new pair and use those, if the skates got sent to Timbuktu instead of Toronto. My repeated requests to "please take good care of them" were sympathetically received.
When I arrived at my destination, it was nerve-racking waiting for my skate bag to come down the chute. It was pretty obvious which of the recent arrivals were in town for the Canadian Adult Figure Skating Championships, we all were like expectant fathers waiting for the luggage carousel chute to give birth to our precious skate bags.
Sometimes, if you are transferring to a smaller commuter plane (the kind that you have to actually walk outside and climb steps to board) you may have the luxury of actually seeing your skate bag being loaded. I actually had a gate agent indulge my paranoia and let me go and look to see if it was inside the plane (it was!).
I have heard of recent cases in the United States where the skater had no problems bringing his or her skates on board. On the other hand I also know of a case where the skater was told at the check-in counter that he was permitted to take his skates on board only to be told at the gate that it was not permitted. Long story made short, he and his coach had to return to the check-in desk so his skate bag could be loaded on the plane as checked baggage. Unfortunately by doing this, the plane left without them and they were delayed getting to their destination by 24. hours.
I always make sure that I at least keep my costumes in my carry-on, even if my skates did go MIA, at least I wouldn't have to go to the time and expense of getting the dresses replaced. Am I paranoid? Are all skaters paranoid, or have we just heard too many horror stories? If you have any of your own stories, share them with us and let's either commiserate together or reassure ourselves..
Here's a link to a story about a skater who survived a worst-case scenario; the airline lost all of her stuff! (Scroll down to see it).