Advertise on Bikeforums.net



User Tag List

Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 92
  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Flying with my Brompton: gate-checking experience

    Hi! I have a racing green Brompton 2010 and I'm overjoyed with it. I just had my first experience flying with it and thought this would be a good place to share.

    I chose Southwest, for their clear policies on gate checking and generally relaxed approach to air travel. Flew SFO to Chicago Midway airport and had no problems. On the contrary, I have never had people be more friendly to me when flying in the United States.

    First thing that made me nervous was security, which is basically never fun. This time around the TSA were all smiles: they are as susceptible to the Brompton charm as anyone. The Brommie almost wouldn't fit through the baggage X-ray, but by turning the seat completely sideways it fits eerily well, as though designed specifically to fit through that particular window.

    When I got to the Southwest gate it was the same story: they loved the bike and had no problem checking it. Note that I left the seat (a Brooks) on the bike, the only special packing was a strap to keep the whole thing together (a la Todd Fahrner). When I arrived in Midway, there was my tiny little bike in the "oversized" section, next to the guitars and strollers. It came off the line before the rest of the luggage, and since I checked nothing, I was ready to go!

    This next part will make sense if you know Midway. There's a lengthy walk from the terminal to the Orange Line El station, and it was the middle of the night. I silently and nonchalantly biked this entire section, reducing a seven minute baggage dragging slog to about 45 seconds of surprising and amusing the late night security.

    I'm hooked, and won't be flying without my bike again. One thing I might do differently is put a simple cover on the saddle, but then again, when has a scratch or two done anything but added character and beauty to a Brooks? Not that the saddle was any more scratched when it came out than when I put it in...

    Anyway, I have now transported the Brompton by bus, cab, train, subway and airplane. It's like some magic spackle that fills in all the gaps left by public transportation. So now I'm off to find a boat to take me somewhere!

  2. #2
    Erudite white trash lexm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Big Shoulders, City of
    My Bikes
    Brompton M1R, Moulton TSR-2, Strida LT (now the Mrs's)
    Posts
    190
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Am most pleased to hear this. I fly Southwest out of Midway a lot, so it's good to learn that everyone's cool with the Brompton. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    @AlexeiM on Twitter

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Kirkland, WA
    My Bikes
    Soma Doublecross DC
    Posts
    191
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Makes me want to get one

  4. #4
    Senior Member Niked's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Philly
    My Bikes
    2009 Downtube FS8, 1970 Raleigh Gran Prix, 2009 Citizen Tokyo
    Posts
    212
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Now, you'll have to book a cruise and take your folder to the Caribbean!

  5. #5
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,690
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I'm surprised to checked in the bike with no box or any packaging. Especially a Brompton. I'd be worried it would get trashed on the plane.

  6. #6
    New usename ThorUSA brakemeister's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Southern Illinois USA
    Posts
    2,469
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)
    good to hear about your positive experience.

    you had the4 bike in checked baggage and it survived nicely even without packaging. Good Very Good.. Thats how it should be !
    Unfortunately for every good story they are 20 bad ones ....

    flying commercially is not what it used to be these days.....those airline and tsa folks doing whatever they seem fit
    ( ( with the excuse of national safety )

    Thor

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    lucille, Thor, my experience was probably a good one because I gate checked the bike. That is, I wheeled it through the security checkpoint, all the way up to the boarding gate, and gave it to the flight attendants to be hand-checked. This is what musicians do with their instruments, and the packages receive much more delicate treatment.

    Also the Brompton is an incredibly sturdy bike; people don't give it enough credit for this. I would never treat it this way, but I'm certain I could ride away from a couple six-foot drops directly onto concrete. I did use a strap to make sure it wouldn't fall open, and if I were vain about the saddle or if it were made from a more delicate material than thick cowhide I'd probably put a cover on it, or remove it and add it to my baggage.

    Caribbean, Europe, Vancouver... there are a lot of places I want to fly to now. It'll be awhile before I can make the time and resources line up, but the world feels wide open!

  8. #8
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,690
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Hmmmm.... now I'm really intrigued! How did you sweet talk them to let you take it as far as a gate? That Brommie must indeed have some magical powers!

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    It kind of does!

    There are a few things the Brompton has going for it:

    1. It looks like luggage. With the bag clipped to the front block, the whole thing operates as a pull-along. I don't look that different from anyone else dragging luggage. This is, shall we say, soothing to the airport security mindset. This is also quite distinct to the Brompton: I know of no other bicycle that handles this way w/ luggage attached.
    2. It fits through the X-ray belt. I had to turn the saddle so the nose was sideways, but it fits just perfectly. This impressed the TSA; they were sort of discreetly gathering around and rubbernecking the bicycle. A couple of them complimented me on it. This is the first time the TSA has been actively nice to me, although I've had plenty of polite encounters (and quite a few tired, cranky people as well). I bet a Strida would fit as well, but I'm dubious about a Tikit: anyone experienced here?
    3. I was flying Southwest. They are known to have a relaxed policy about gate-checking sports equipment, including folding bikes. Some other airlines, particularly major carriers, are becoming increasingly customer-hostile and there are ugly stories of people being refused this common courtesy and charged up to $100 to check a folder as a regular bike. I choose not to patronize those carriers, for a number of excellent reasons.


    In general, most carriers will treat it no differently from a pair of skis or a guitar; they'll take it at the gate, check it, and handle it reasonably respectfully. I submit that baby strollers are far more delicate than a Brompton, and parents probably check ten thousand strollers a day in the US without incident.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,690
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Well, good for you!

    I'm not sure if Tikit would fit,maybe but not NWT with it's 20inch wheels. Besides, I would worry that they refuse to let me through with it, and I will have to check it in unprotected. Then again, maybe I worry too much.
    Also, as far as I know, guitars are not allowed on board either. They need to be checked in as well.

  11. #11
    New usename ThorUSA brakemeister's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Southern Illinois USA
    Posts
    2,469
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)
    as I said the whole adventure was a positive one and one has to applaud the OP to take his bike through security ....

    I just lost a beautifull titanium almost one of the kind multitool with no blade longer than 2 inches to the friendly folks of tsa ... ( no knife or saw or anything like that on that tool )

    I also got ruffled out of the wazoo as I had a single bicycle spoke in my unchecked bagagge in a different flight
    ( it was a sample spoke, very special indeed) and the spoke was gone and I got special attention in a hurry ...

    I cannot see that anybody is allowed any bike no matter what brand or size through security ...
    Dont try this if you dont have enough time to go back and get the bike through regular checked luggage ....

    at that time you will pay extra , which I never did when the bike was in a suitcase ( or airporter or whatever)

    not dissing the OP who I belive had a huge amount of luck and some TSA people who didnt go by the book ( good on them )

    thor

  12. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I'm not convinced luck played a major role. I've had knives stopped at TSA twice, and the length of the blade doesn't seem to matter. Not sure what to tell you about the spoke, except that there have been months in the last decade when you'd have to be insane or desperate to fly at all: I've been hassled over a single allen wrench, but those are explicitly allowed now.

    I always leave enough time to deal with unforeseen events when traveling, and don't recommend trying to gate check a bike if you don't have the time to go back to the check line. As for whether a bike is allowed through security, well, it isn't on the list of prohibited items in the sterile zone. No one saw a problem, and I'm hardly the only person to travel this way.

    Anyway, I intend to update this thread from time to time with more data points. We'll just have to see if this experience was exceptional or not!

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Update: flying Continental

    On Monday, I flew two Continental flights, gate checking the Brompton for both of them. In short, I encountered no problems.

    The security at O'hare was pretty uncurious about the whole thing, and merely scanned the bike and waved me through with the usual bored line-clearing attitude. Continental took the bike and gave me a gate check ticket, again without a fuss (pictures included). This was a crowded commuter flight between O'hare and Newark, sold out. I don't know of a better way to stress test the US domestic flight system.

    When I got to Newark I had three hours to connect and was feeling antsy. My bike was next to the strollers this time, rather than in baggage claim, probably because of the connecting flight. I decided another run through security was worth the exercise and went off to ride the Brompton around the parking lot for a half hour or so.

    On the way back through security I encountered trouble! Turns out I had forgotten to empty my water bottle, which the helpful TSA folks proceeded to do for me. They also developed somewhat of an interest in my pepper mill, but gave it back once it was determined to have pepper in it. The bike? Not even glanced at, other than by the X-ray technician, whose job it is to look at things.

    The connecting flight to a regional airport went smoothly also. In this case I had to gate-check my T-bag as well into the underbelly of the small turbo-prop plane: I experienced my first pang of worry watching my laptop get loaded onto a conveyor belt! Needless to say, my Brompton and luggage were waiting for me, unharmed, when I arrived at my destination.

    My conclusion, after three security clearances and three gate checks: this isn't luck, this is just how the airlines deal with a small piece of sporting equipment that they don't recognize. If it fits on the conveyor and isn't prohibited, it's allowed, and if you give it to the gate attendant, he or she will check it for you without complaint.

    I admit I was nervous to try this on Continental, which is now United. But each person in the intricate airline operation has their job. It's the purpose of TSA to find bombs, not exclude bicycles, while it is the purpose of the gate attendant to get everyone smoothly off and on the plane. The check-in crew is there to make sure you obey baggage regulations and pay all the extras the airline wants to charge; I avoid them whenever possible, especially with something weird like a folding bike.

    Basically, I haven't encountered any trouble, but if I do, I will refer to my bike as 'sporting equipment' and expect everything to be fine. I hope to continue to update this thread from time to time with travel stories; flying with the Brompton has changed my entire travel dynamic, and I'm going to keep doing it.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  14. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    106
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Please keep us update on your traveling progress with the Brompton.

  15. #15
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    283
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Just traveled through helsinki with a small dahon with rigid handlebar t on top, was in a soft shelled suitcase well packed (cadboard shielded on interior), after arrival the other half of handlebar was bent down, about 2 inches. With my 13 stones pushing down on this bar, I can't do that. Still cant see the force that could do that unless it was run over, but no visible damage other than the bend.

    So, having travelled with small bikes on 50+ flights, Thor speaks truth. You're lucky.

    When flights are full and you are forced to check your carry on at plane door, and you see your fragile equipment being tossed to you onto the ground, don't think your bike is gonna get those extra 5 seconds of TLC from anyone when it's checked from the beginning.

    Don't forget that you may not have sufficient coverage for your bike if not buying additional insurance when your $1500 bike disappears.
    Last edited by JimBeans83; 10-23-10 at 11:25 AM. Reason: <@plane door>

  16. #16
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Jim, I'm sorry to hear about your bike. Luggage handling can be a brutal business.

    The experience a checked bike in luggage receives bears no resemblance to that of gate checking a naked bicycle. I don't check the bike at the ticket counter, and I don't bring it onto the plane. I leave it at the gate, and pick it up, usually, at the gate as well.

    The Brompton is classed with the strollers and wheelchairs. The strollers in particular are fragile creatures and seem to generally survive air travel fine. Any time my bike leaves the house, it's at risk. This still strikes me as the safest, and also the easiest, way to fly with a bike.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    My Bikes
    Trek 730, Bike Friday NWT, Brompton M6R, Trek 830, Dahon HAT 060, ...
    Posts
    1,437
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    atman, have you been carrying any other carry-on along with your Brompton? I am asking, because I usually carry work related stuff with me, including a laptop, that I cannot in practice part with. I.e. the Brompton would have to come on top of the other carry-on that I am always with. Thanks.

  18. #18
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    2_i, i travel with a laptop, clothes, a blanket, various cables and more stuffed into the Brompton's T-bag. That's the carry-on; it clips to the Brompton and gets dragged (laboriously I might add) through the airport, then they go their separate ways.

  19. #19
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    193
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Fourth and Fifth Brompton Flights

    Happily back in San Francisco with an undamaged Brompton and another story to tell.

    Part of my philosophy has been to avoid baggage claim completely. At a large airport this is easy; I'm not checking baggage, so I simply hit the kiosk and proceed through security. At the regional I was flying out of, I was basically the only customer in the check-in area, and the lady behind the counter figured I was going to be baggage checking the bike. When I said I was planning to gate check it, she went to check with the TSA to make sure that I could carry it aboard.

    She came back out and asked "Is that a regular old bicycle, or something like an assisted mobility device?" This was something I expected; the TSA and baggage handlers are always more comfortable with luggage they can categorize, and if I replied "bicycle" at this point I'd basically be forcing them to treat it like a cumbersome. I replied "Sports equipment" and she said "Aha!" and went back for another consultation; she came out and said "He says it's okay, basically like a large stroller or something". Not bad for sight unseen; it's actually more like a small stroller!

    Checking onto the plane was exceptionally simple, but the flight was late arriving. I found myself doing a full-on dash through Newark Liberty to my connecting flight, alternately pulling and carrying the Brompton, cursing softly, and tweaking muscles in my neck and upper back. Look, if you're going to do this often, get the rear rack with wheels. I wanted to save a little weight, Channell recommended against it, and I wish I'd listened.

    Despite that, I rolled up rather late to the gate, and got a dubious "You want to get on this flight?" from the attendant. I breathlessly showed my boarding pass, phone calls were made and I was allowed on. The bike got a brief glance and a "you need a special handling tag for that, where do you want to put it?" and was left at the bottom of the gate. When I got into SFO, it was waiting for me in the same place; it had been rained on, but was otherwise in fine shape.

    This might be it for flying with the Brommie until the season turns; my remaining flights this year will be taking me into freezing rain and snow and hills, not to mention salt on the roads, and I can't bring myself to put my Brompton through that, to say nothing of myself. But I feel confident making two statements: One may safely gate check an unpacked Brompton and hence Flying with the Brompton is the easiest and most pleasant way to fly with a bicycle, period. The magic, as I've indicated before, is that the bike fits on the security X-ray; this gets past the only point of obstacle in the system.

  20. #20
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    60
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Do you guys never carry any tools for your bikes ( allen keys, wrench/spanner etc. ) that TSA would object to ?
    I don't think I would manage to go without at least some check-in baggage.

    Last year when I flew to spokane, I cycled past a cutting that was being blasted for a replacement bridge span.
    TSA ripped my Brompton hard case to pieces - removing ALL the lining.
    The bike looked like they had got frustrated trying to work out how to fold it after their swabbing.
    The hard case was not tightly closed - so once the united handlers threw it around a few times, it has never properly latched shut. :-(
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

    Fortunately last week - on the same trip the Brompton was unmolested and the case took on no further damage.

  21. #21
    Newbie
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    1
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Atman, I really appreciated all the insight on your Brompton travels. I am thinking of getting a Brompton for this very reason. You say your bike fits through the X-ray machine, but what size wheels do you have?

  22. #22
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Central Florida - USA
    My Bikes
    2012 Brompton S6R; 2003 Litespeed Firenze; 1994 Diamond BAck Axis TT
    Posts
    1,654
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by atman View Post
    Flying with the Brompton is the easiest and most pleasant way to fly with a bicycle, period.
    I have been saying this since 2007. I can't wait to travel with my newest acquisition!

  23. #23
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    On the road-USA
    My Bikes
    Giant Excursion, Raleigh Sports, Raleigh R.S.W. Compact, Motobecane? and about 20 more! OMG
    Posts
    16,236
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by skblues View Post
    Atman, I really appreciated all the insight on your Brompton travels. I am thinking of getting a Brompton for this very reason. You say your bike fits through the X-ray machine, but what size wheels do you have?
    Bromptons only come with the 16" wheels (349).

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

    ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

    "Cycling should be a way of life, not a hobby.
    RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
    _Nicodemus

    "Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
    Aluminum: barely a hundred
    Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
    _krazygluon

  24. #24
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    My Bikes
    Too many....................
    Posts
    3,073
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    This is on the bay right now may help someone with the Brommie http://cgi.ebay.com/BROMPTON-FOLDING...item3a64ed63a7
    Speed Uno
    Dawes Kingpin 2speed

  25. #25
    Senior Member Sangetsu's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    363
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I haven' yet flown with a folding bike, but I often fly with my full-size road bike. So far I have had no difficulty, other than the oversize bag fee, and sometimes a bicycle surcharge. All of my flights are international, from Asia to America or Europe, but customs and security people have not given me any problems. The only problem is the cost; the over-size bag fee is $150, and the bicycle surcharge is usually another $150. I now avoid the bicycle surcharge by telling the check-in attendant that the case contains photographic equipment. They know it's a bicycle, but they never do anything but smile or wink. When I fly business class or better, they don't even ask what's in the case.

Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •