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Old 04-04-11, 06:26 AM   #1
tourer78
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Folding Bikes on Airlines (specifically Delta)

Hello everyone, my wife and I are all set for a 5 week trip to the US in August. We were planning on bringing our Folders (Bike Fridays in travelcases) with us, but I am starting to read numerous reports of people being charged for taking them on airlines (most notably Delta, with whom we have a few flights booked) even though they pack into a standard suitcase. The BF travelcase comes in at around 63.5 inches total measurement, but I cant see that being a problem. I have also read numerous horror stories about the tsa opening up or breaking travelcases and losing bits/not repacking them properly. Other options I have would include ground shipping them to my onward destinations or simply not bothering with the bikes at all if it is going to be too much expense/hassle. Is anyone up to date with the current situation?
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Old 04-04-11, 06:43 AM   #2
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They usually charge you for the extra suitcase as most airlines do now days. The limit with most airlines is one suitcase. When i bring my Friday I put a picture of the bike packed in the case and put together on top of the case so you see it when it is opened. Do not lock the case. Roger
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Old 04-04-11, 06:56 AM   #3
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I traveled twice within the last ~2 years on Delta with a folder, once a NWT in a hardshell suitcase and once a Dahon in a soft bag. I am a frequent flier with them, and neither time they charged me anything. The soft bag exceeded dimensions for regular luggage, but they did not check. As a hardshell I use Carlton, which makes a bit tighter fit for the bike, but falls under the dimensions. My next trip with NWT on Delta comes up in May, so will report if there is any trouble.
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Old 04-04-11, 06:59 AM   #4
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I should clarify that my concern is with the $200 per flight charge for a bike on delta, not the standard suitcase charge ($20 - $40 I think). I am not sure how the airline might find out but I have read of people being charged this for fridays, bromptons etc even though they are in a standard suitcase - and of course you are at the airlines mercy once you are at the check-in counter.
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Old 04-04-11, 08:03 AM   #5
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I have the Carlton suitcase for my Bike Friday (Pocket Rocket) and have flown with it on various airlines, incl. Delta. I have never been asked about the contents of the suitcase and there's never been any charge other than one for a normal checked bag. I have started to secure the bike with some nylon straps so the TSA can lift the whole thing out of the suitcase for inspection and put it back in the suitcase without damaging anything. And I also have a picture of the packed bike inside the case. So far there hasn't been any damage.
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Old 04-04-11, 07:13 PM   #6
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I think other non Bike Friday owners started the rumor for the extra charges. When pinned down on this they admitted it was the second suitcase charge. This was all discussed before X-mas. Roger
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Old 04-04-11, 07:47 PM   #7
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The key to avoiding the bicycle charge is to not use the word "bicycle" around the ticket counter. Originally, the bike fee was imposed because the full size bicycle box could not be transported via the conveyor system and had to be "walked" through the sytem. But nowadays with airlines losing money and cutting pay to their employees. Morale is at an all time low and turnover is high. Consequently training has suffered and most airline customer service agents either don't understand, or don't care about the difference between a full sized bike and a folding one. They just hear the word bicycle and automatically impose the bicycle fee. Just use the word sports equipment and keep the weight under 50 lbs and you should be OK.

I've never had a problem with the TSA. They usually just open and look inside without removing the bike. I did however paint in BOLD "Open this side up" and "Open other side up" The picture of the packed bike is a good idea too.
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Old 04-05-11, 03:12 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhenning View Post
I think other non Bike Friday owners started the rumor for the extra charges. When pinned down on this they admitted it was the second suitcase charge. This was all discussed before X-mas. Roger
Do you have the link to the forum where this was discussed? Thanks for the advice
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Old 04-05-11, 04:55 AM   #9
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I have not traveled with a bike, this is more generic recommendation:
I ALWAYS put a photo copy of my flight info in my checked baggage. Thus, when the luggage tags are torn off, they can find out your info easily. I also use two luggage tags so that there is a better chance that at least one luggage tag will remain on the luggage throughout the entire trip. I have lost several luggage tags over the years but I have never lost both luggage tags off of a bag at the same time.

At this time, Delta has a deal with American Express, if you have the Delta branded American Express card, your first checked bag is free. I do not know if this is available to non-USA residents. There is an annual fee for the card, but if you are eligible and if you are taking several Delta flights, you might want to look into it. When I got my American Express card under this deal, they screwed up and issued me a new frequent flyer number that did not match my current flight reservations so I had to call Delta to get my data consolidated to get proper credit.
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Old 04-05-11, 07:31 AM   #10
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I don't have an link for the comments but it was in the middle of a long post on Bike Fridays. Roger
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Old 04-05-11, 01:26 PM   #11
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I fly Delta several times a year. In my experience the "quality" of Delta ticket agents varies extremely widely -- some are friendly and helpful and still seem to enjoy their jobs, while others are so rude, surly and/or indifferent that you can't believe you aren't in the old USSR -- but regardless of these inconsistencies I have found them to be very consistent when it comes to enforcing baggage policies. Specifically, what I've seen is that unless there's something obviously unusual about your baggage (oversized, bike logos on it) all they care about is the weight.

These folks are clearly under a lot of pressure to raise revenue by charging for overweight bags, and even the friendliest ones will stick you with a stiff overweight charge even if your bag is 50.1 pounds. I am not kidding. We travel regularly with a large suitcase that is hard NOT to push over 50 pounds if you actually fill it, so a couple times found myself repacking in front of the counter to shift a mere pound or two to another bag. Now I weigh at home and keep it under 49 pounds to allow for any inaccuracy in their scale.

This may be specific to Delta -- I haven't experienced this to the same degree with other airlines. In any event, I don't think the Delta folks usually feel like being bothered to check anything else. Although you can theoretically be charged $175 for a folding bike in regulation suitcase, it's very unlikely unless you have bike stickers all over your bag or are talking about bikes at the counter. In the very unlikely event that you're asked by the Delta agent (as opposed to the TSA) what's in your bag, the old "exercise equipment" line should still work and is perfectly truthful. If pressed for more specifics, you might still get away with "exercise bike". DO NOT make any false statements like "tradeshow displays", however, like folks used to get away with pre-9/11 -- this could now land you in jail.

TSA is a totally separate matter. Once they have your bag it's past the point where anyone can charge you for what's in it. All you need to worry about with TSA is enabling them to repack it. I haven't traveled with bikes much, but if it's a tricky packing job I'd second the recommendation to enclose a photo and/or instructions. I almost always find a TSA calling card in my checked baggage (oh, welcome to the Land Of The Free, by the way!), but nothing has ever been amiss. It is safe to assume your bag WILL be searched even in normal conditions; and I'd assume that the tubular metal parts of a bicycle absolutely guarantee a search.

Last edited by GlowBoy; 04-05-11 at 01:41 PM.
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