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.