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Old 09-06-05, 04:19 AM   #1
HoustonB
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Hello to all.

I'm in an Internet cafe in London having just arrived on an overnight flight from Newark. I thought you might all like to know that Continental charged me for my bike even though it was thoroughly disassembled and in a Tardis Bag (www.GroundEffect.Com ) - purchased specifically with the hope that it would help to avoid the bike charge.

When I got to check in, the man was very by-the-book. Here is the gist of the exchange:
Check-in-man: what is in the bag?
Me: outdoor recreation equipment
Check-in-man: so you’re going to make me guess
Me: remained silent
Check-in-man: “Looks like a bike – I have to charge you $80.00”
Me: hands over credit card, and reflect on the fact that a telephone enquiry over a month ago showed the fee to be $120 plus $20 for a box (each way).
Check-in-man: I need you to sign this “liability release” because the bike is not properly packaged. In theory I should not let it go unless it’s in a box.

By now I was starting to get peeved. Having gone to extreme lengths to avoid looking like a bike was involved. I went as far as putting the unpacked panniers in a duffel bag. Having signed a release I’ve just spent the entire journey worrying about getting to France later today with a bike that might need major surgery or needing to rent a replacement.

When one considers that my total checked luggage weighed in at only 48 lbs. One has to wonder what I got for my $80.00

In London the bike in its Tardis bag came out on the carousel with all the other luggage. On the way to the carousel there was a public address about a push-bike (I hate that term) leaning against the wall next to carousel 6. I assumed this was mine and started to walk back in that direction – I did not need to walk all the way, as soon as I saw it, I realised that it was not mine, the bike was fully assembled and not in any packaging. Since my package came out on the carousel it is obvious that the luggage handlers did not differentiate between it and any other regular luggage – yet I paid a princely sum for something.

On the return trip, in anticipation of being charged again, I am going to visit the other airline desks to see if any have bike boxes and check prices. If Continental decide to charge me then I am going to put the Tardis bag in the full size box, take up all the extra room and refuse to sign any liability release.

During the flight I ruminated on many possible ways to persuade airlines to forget about the bicycle fee. One idea was to use a case on regular (non-touring) flights that looked ‘exactly’ like a disassembled bike, with the outline of the wheels and frame painted on the sides combined with a very large ‘BIKE’. Obviously check-in staff are going to say, “I need to charge you for the bike” – but I can then truthfully respond “what bike would that be”. And if they insist on seeing the content, I will do my best to use all of the spare time I’ve given myself having arrived extra early.

I have a little over 2 hours before I head back to Waterloo station, and retrieve the bike from left-luggage and then head for Paris through the Chunnel. It is probably worth adding a little digression here about the “Rip Off Britain” reputation. If you visit Eurostar.Com and say you are from the U.K. you get charged 148 UK pounds for the one-way trip from London to Paris. If you then clear your web browser cookies and do the same trip enquiry, but this time state that you are in the U.S. you get charged $90. At the current exchange rate of 1.8 dollars to the pound that works out at only 50 pounds – unbelievable but true.

Another price shocker, but this time the U.S. is the rip off: Internet access at a phone booth in Newark terminal ran 4 minutes per dollar. The café I’m in is only charging 1 pound per hour and the coffee is also only 1 pound – for London. I find these prices pretty hard to believe.

Sometime between Tuesday and Saturday, I will look into reassembling the bike in France. I’m attending a wedding on Thursday and Friday so the bike is unlikely to be needed before Saturday. My thoughts are that it might behoove me to do the reassembly in a bike shop – that way, if there are problems I should have easy access to remedies.

I will try posting again later this week. Before I head off to Burgundy with my “French for Dummies” book.

Best regards to all and lets boycott Continental.
Houston.
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Last edited by HoustonB; 09-06-05 at 04:29 AM. Reason: Fix a typo.
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Old 09-06-05, 05:00 AM   #2
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Many airlines (mainly non-US ones) don't have additional charges for transporting bikes. Choose your airline accordingly.

I've flown with a bike on Lufthansa, KLM, British Airways, Qantas and several South American airlines, all without charges. Sounds to me if you put the effort into airline research instead of packaging, you could have saved yourself a lot of grief.

In the future, check http://www.bikeaccess.net/BikeAccess/airlines.cfm before flying.

PS: You've managed to post this three times!
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Old 09-06-05, 05:38 AM   #3
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NWA- which ironically is some sort of partner with Continental, offers FREE bikes on international flights, as long as it is counted as a piece of checked luggage. I took one in a mamoth Trico Iron case last year. I had to reserve a spot for it. Domestically, it is cheaper to ship a bike than fly with it.
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Old 09-06-05, 08:00 AM   #4
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So would continental charge for a bike-friday? I supposed it would be harder to spot.
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Old 09-06-05, 09:32 AM   #5
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Somebody needs to make a bike case that looks exactly like a samsonite suitcase.

I have flown my bike across the Atlantic twice, once with Transat, once with Air Canada. No charge either time and the bike has flown boxed (twice), bare and covered in plastic (not in actual bag,just plastic taped over it). It was the easiest to deal with when covered with plastic, tear off the wrapping and go, no assembly required. Shipping it bare was okay, but they wrecked my rear tire.

If I am paying hundreds of dollars to fly, an extra $50 or so to carry the bike wouldn't bother me too much, but why should I then have to sign a waiver absolving them of any responsibility for damages?

Last edited by skookum; 09-06-05 at 09:35 AM. Reason: fix mistakes
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Old 09-06-05, 09:53 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peterpan1
So would continental charge for a bike-friday? I supposed it would be harder to spot.
Continental's official party line is, it's based on the size & weight of the luggage. If you pack a folding bike into a case that's less than 62 linear inches and 50 lbs, you should not get charged -- also afaik you can avoid some of the fees and limits on taking your bike on trains. I'm guessing HoustonB's case is much larger than the 62" limit, so he'd have gotten hit with the $80 oversize fee regardless of its bikeness.

I just picked up a folding bike for my trip to Belgium (on Continental out of Newark) in a few weeks. I'll let y'all know how it works out....
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Old 09-06-05, 04:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe
Continental's official party line is, it's based on the size & weight of the luggage. If you pack a folding bike into a case that's less than 62 linear inches and 50 lbs, you should not get charged -- also afaik you can avoid some of the fees and limits on taking your bike on trains. I'm guessing HoustonB's case is much larger than the 62" limit, so he'd have gotten hit with the $80 oversize fee regardless of its bikeness.

I just picked up a folding bike for my trip to Belgium (on Continental out of Newark) in a few weeks. I'll let y'all know how it works out....
Additionally, I think that bike has to count as one of the checked bags for the checked bags allowances. If your bike is a third piece of checked luggage, you will end up being charged extra. But this is the general rule for all international and domestic flights I've taken with my bike friday, I've never had anything questioned about it. It fits in the samsonite suitcase and is well within the linear inches specificatins, and always under 50 pounds.

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Old 09-06-05, 06:59 PM   #8
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The US airlines are relatively anal about the 62 inch/50# thing....that is why the hard case for the S&S coupled bikes is just a nit under 26" square and 10" thick. So far I have only flown once domestically and didn't have a question. The TSA opened the case and took out the chain lube (2oz tri-flow) and left me a love letter about transporting hazardous substances. An associate transported a pint of vodka on the same flight. Gotta love nitwits...
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Old 09-06-05, 07:26 PM   #9
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Check-in-man: I need you to sign this “liability release” because the bike is not properly packaged. In theory I should not let it go unless it’s in a box.
These releases are a joke. Even if you sign a waiver, it does not mean that you cannot get compensation if you are persistent. Air Canada mishandled my bike on an overseas trip several years ago, and I ended up spending two days finding a bike shop and waiting to get repairs. The cost to have the bike fixed and adjusted was approximately $80.

When I returned home, I wrote Air Canada to demand that they refund the damage caused by their baggage "handler." (I actually saw him throw my bike over his head into the airplane from my seat!) A week or two later I received a polite F.O.A.D. reply. I wrote again. A week or two later I received another refusal. I wrote again. A week or two later I received the cheque! Mission accomplished!
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Old 09-06-05, 09:28 PM   #10
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I never sign a waiver. They're job is to get my luggage to me in the shape I gave it to them. If they throw the bike around, it's on them to pay for their carelessness. Once, they tried to get me to sign something, and I wrote a ryder in there stating that any damage resulting from their negligent handling invalidates the waiver. Another time, I wrote "you break it, you buy it" on the bike luggage. The airline was so perturbed they tried to write over it, but I stopped that mess right away.

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Old 09-06-05, 09:41 PM   #11
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I deal with Continental Airlines on a regular basis for work. They have a corporate policy of cheapness.
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Old 09-26-05, 11:00 AM   #12
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Update: No problems or extra fees taking a disassembled folding bike onto two Continental flights. They did, however, take my bike lock away from my carry-on luggage the 2nd time around....
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Old 09-26-05, 12:55 PM   #13
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I can understand them taking away a bike lock (barely). As long as they had a way of checking it for you and you could pick it up upon arrival at your destination.

Once I had a pair of scissors on a flight back from Hong Kong (1997). On my stopover in Japan, they confiscated my scissors and packed it up in a box with my name on it. When I got to Chicago, there was a tiny box waiting with my scissors. The customs folks in Japan were terribly apologetic and polite about the whole thing. I had to laugh. Here, they confiscate and make you feel like the next al quieda member and take your stuff to never be seen again.

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