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Old 02-02-11, 04:36 PM   #1
stokell
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Taking Your Bike in a Plastic Bag on a Plane Update

Hi,
I've long been an advocate of the plastic bag. No need to store the bag and you can ride right to the airport. Some members recoil in shock at the idea. It turns out I'm not alone.

Check out the Travelling Two website
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Old 02-02-11, 05:11 PM   #2
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yeah I saw that. I think when luggage handlers can see into the bag and see that it is a bicycle, they handle it more carefully. also.. it's much easier to pack and unpack. I may do this for my northern tier in the summer.
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Old 02-02-11, 05:43 PM   #3
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seems like a decent idea. wonder if there's a slightly sturdier clear plastic box that can be modified to fit snugly and offer some protection but still show that the package is a bike?
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Old 02-02-11, 08:09 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by stokell View Post
Hi,
I've long been an advocate of the plastic bag. No need to store the bag and you can ride right to the airport. Some members recoil in shock at the idea. It turns out I'm not alone.
Some interesting comments here on bags vs boxes.

The problem we may have here is that most airline baggage policies seem to talk only about boxes. When you call ahead, the clerk is usually not allowed to discuss alternatives to written policy. Ask to speak to a supervisor. A 'No' there doesn't necessarily mean 'No' when you get to the airport, as the actual policy toward bicycles may not match the written policy. So, if a clear plastic bag is the one you want to use, show up with the bike in the bag, but bring a box along just in case. Then if 'No' again, just drop the bag in the box and off you'll go.

If you can't find a plastic bag specifically made for a bicycle, make your own out of 0.4 mil builders plastic available at nearly any hardware store. A draw string end will make it reusable. Tough stuff.

BTW, to protect the derailluer, I unscrew it and zip tie it to the frame.
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Old 02-02-11, 08:13 PM   #5
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Still seems pretty risky... what if they stack luggage on top of it?
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Old 02-02-11, 09:25 PM   #6
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Still seems pretty risky... what if they stack luggage on top of it?

unlikely, because now it isnt flat...
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Old 02-02-11, 11:33 PM   #7
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Mattress bags are huge, strong plastic bags that can easily accommodate a bike. Might be able to just ask for one from a mattress/bed shop.
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Old 02-03-11, 12:56 AM   #8
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Still seems pretty risky... what if they stack luggage on top of it?
On the long-haul international flights that I have travelled most recently, this is less of an issue than it used to be because the passengers' luggage is put into containers which are then loaded. These are the moderately large aluminium "cells" that are taken across the tarmac to the loading ramp.

Perhaps this makes easier the job of locating the luggage of errant passengers who have been offloaded or are being left behind in the bar after numerous boarding calls.

I am not certain what happens with oversized luggage such as bikes, surfboards and the like, but I suspect they aren't just tossed aboard. Which might be why there is less argument about a bagged bike.

Domestic flights might be somewhat different.

I would still be leery of using anything other than a stout cardboard bike box for travelling. I value my bike too much not to have additional protection around certain parts. Certainly, the Madone box that Machka has is one of the best I've seen.
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Old 02-03-11, 04:50 AM   #9
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I have used thick gague plastic bags a lot. You also need to protect the frame with plumbing insulation foam (split tubes).
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Old 02-03-11, 07:46 AM   #10
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I had a very bad experience with a thick plastic bag. Years ago, Western Airlines (a US carrier later bought by Delta) routinely gave out thick plastic bags for bicycles. Western proceeded to completely destroy one of my wheels on one of their flights. So much for the idea that if they can see it, they won't destroy it, or because it's not flat, they won't put something heavy and destructive on top of it.
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Old 02-03-11, 08:00 AM   #11
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I had a very bad experience with a thick plastic bag. Years ago, Western Airlines (a US carrier later bought by Delta) routinely gave out thick plastic bags for bicycles. Western proceeded to completely destroy one of my wheels on one of their flights. So much for the idea that if they can see it, they won't destroy it, or because it's not flat, they won't put something heavy and destructive on top of it.
With a low-cost, American carrier at least. Sevilla to Barcelona to Heathrow to Philadelphia in a bag flying European carriers. Zero problems.
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Old 02-03-11, 08:00 AM   #12
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They stack um.
Here are three bike boxes when we flew from Houston to New Jersey.
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Old 02-03-11, 08:30 AM   #13
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With a low-cost, American carrier at least. Sevilla to Barcelona to Heathrow to Philadelphia in a bag flying European carriers. Zero problems.
Western wasn't a "low-cost" carrier, and they had a pretty good reputation.

I'm glad you had no problems with a bag. I simply wanted to convey my personal experience because it directly contradicted some of the suppositions above. FWIW, I never had any problems with boxes (which I used many more times than a plastic bag), other than the time where the box and its contents were stolen by the airline, most likely in a European airport. Anyway, I now avoid the whole bicycle/airline mess because I've got a Bike Friday which packs into a regular plastic suitcase. It's worked like a charm for 11 years. No airline fees and a fine bike.
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Old 02-03-11, 10:07 AM   #14
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Not sure why seeing a bike all dismantled would have a bigger impact on a handler than a box with big letters saying caution, bicycle, breakable, etc. I also don't like the idea of appealing to the good nature of the handler in order to protect my bike, but to each his own.
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Old 02-03-11, 11:58 AM   #15
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Has anyone had any recent experience with US carriers and bagged bikes? Especially with regard to the 80 inch limit. It seems most bagged bikes would exceed that by 20-30 inches.
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Old 02-03-11, 03:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
I had a very bad experience with a thick plastic bag. Years ago, Western Airlines (a US carrier later bought by Delta) routinely gave out thick plastic bags for bicycles. Western proceeded to completely destroy one of my wheels on one of their flights. So much for the idea that if they can see it, they won't destroy it, or because it's not flat, they won't put something heavy and destructive on top of it.
My friend was a baggage loader for Delta for a few years. Like UPS drivers, they don't care about what they are loading. If it's cold, or rainy, they care even less. I wouldn't personally trust my $1000+ bike in the hands of a minimum wage worker that just wants to get home.
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Old 02-03-11, 05:26 PM   #17
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I think I'll try the plastic bag option next time. Not having to take the whole thing apart sounds appealing. According to their websites, both Air Canada and Air Transat provide bags at the counter, but Westjet (the only airline I've flown my bike with) doesn't. All three (the only three that have flights that don't involve getting hassled by US Border Protection and the TSA) indicate that both bags and boxes are acceptable.

I may order a couple of bags from CTC anyway...easier to pack up at home than at the airport. Turns out I can order a Brooks saddle, up to 4 plastic bags, get it shipped to Canada, and still save over buying a Brooks locally.

Last edited by neil; 02-03-11 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 02-03-11, 05:29 PM   #18
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Hahah, just a warning.. I just asked my friend if he ever saw people flying with their bikes when he worked on the tarmac and he said yes, and he would never trust the airlines with his bike.

He worked for Delta for 2ish years loading baggage onto planes. They don't have any special procedures for handling luggage differently. If it makes it through the flight unscathed, it's probably luck more than anything (if you fly with it bagged).
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Old 02-04-11, 08:17 AM   #19
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you pays you money, you take you chances

(lets face it, most of the time I am sure that depends on which side of the bed the baggage handlers got out of the bed that morning. I have seen my bike box under a pile of suitcases--they clearly didnt give a rats ass that day)
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Old 04-12-11, 06:16 AM   #20
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Plastic bags- Air canada

Quote:
Originally Posted by neil View Post
I think I'll try the plastic bag option next time. Not having to take the whole thing apart sounds appealing. According to their websites, both Air Canada and Air Transat provide bags at the counter, but Westjet (the only airline I've flown my bike with) doesn't. All three (the only three that have flights that don't involve getting hassled by US Border Protection and the TSA) indicate that both bags and boxes are acceptable.

I may order a couple of bags from CTC anyway...easier to pack up at home than at the airport. Turns out I can order a Brooks saddle, up to 4 plastic bags, get it shipped to Canada, and still save over buying a Brooks locally.
Just to give you a heads up. We went one week ahead to Air Canada at pearson and they wouldn NOT give us bags . You could only get them on the day of departure AFTER you had checked in. no real time to prep bike, etc. So, on our next trip, we went to the bus terminal and got HUGE plastic bags which we used for our bikes on Air canada. They still had to "inspect" them out of the bag, then we popped them back in. Make one with a drawstring to eliminate duct tape.
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Old 04-12-11, 08:41 AM   #21
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thanks for that headsup
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Old 04-12-11, 08:57 AM   #22
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I have used the CTC plastic bags flying PHX - LHR - PHX on British Air without any issues. One nice side benefit is if you pack it the way CTC recommends it is a very convenient compact package to handle and even carry on to the airport shuttles. (CTC http://www.ctc.org.uk/ a great resource for cycling Europe)
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Old 04-12-11, 09:02 AM   #23
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For US domestic flights I stick to Southwest (or maybe Frontier) since they seem to be the only bike friendly choice(s). Since the language on their web page specifically refers to cardboard boxes and cases only I wouldn't push my luck.
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Old 04-12-11, 10:26 AM   #24
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My friend was a baggage loader for Delta for a few years. Like UPS drivers, they don't care about what they are loading. If it's cold, or rainy, they care even less. I wouldn't personally trust my $1000+ bike in the hands of a minimum wage worker that just wants to get home.
I was a baggage handler as well, for about 4 years. What your friend said is true in some cases, but "they" are not all the same. There are many handlers who take great care with the handling of luggage, and there are others who are notorious for throwing things around and cramming them in the cargo bays using the old "kick" method. Which type you're likely to get is a throw of the dice.

The airlines put a lot of pressure on the handlers to get the plane loaded up fast and out of the gate to avoid delays. Turn-around time, delays, made-up time, and all of that ends up in management reports and in certain publications. Some baggage handlers will sacrifice the kid gloves in the interest of on-time performance or making up time on an already delayed flight. If the plane is pushed back late due to luggage - they hear about it immediately. On the other hand, if your bike and some of the luggage gets a little banged up during the process, it's likely they'll never hear a word about it.

Besides baggage handlers, there's also the prospect of turbulence possibly turning a cargo bay into something akin to a giant clothes dryer.

Most airlines that I know of have a "limited liability" policy for your bike, or any luggage that's in a soft-sided case or cardboard box, and presumably a plastic bag, meaning they are not responsible for damage in transit. That being the case, I think I'd want all the protection I can reasonably get for it. EDIT: But, to each his/her own, of course.

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Old 04-13-11, 12:03 AM   #25
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Nice not to need storing a box which can be a hassle and/or expense. never flown with a bike, the whole prospect gives me shivers. Am thinking about a tour in Germany (I live in the DC USA area) & while Munich airport, for instance, has storage that could accommodate a bike box, it costs about 7 euros/day. & if one has a different airport for the return flight that doesn't work. Bag or box, it seems that US airlines don't give a hoot about bikers & I'm not sure Euro/UK airlines are any better. If I had the $$ to spare I'd get a super-deluxe tourer with Rohloff & belt drive & couplers & fly with a hard case. I read that it's a bit difficult to fit a big touring bike with mudguards & racks & 559mm wheels (even with couplers) into a no-extra charge for bikes case but apparently it can be done.

Nevertheless the bag idea is intriguing. If one takes a little precaution, I suppose the worst damage one could usually expect is a bent rim although frame damage is a scary possibility. One could take a cab to a bike shop & buy a new wheel. BTW on my last trip to Germany I saw airline crew etc riding bikes around inside the airport terminal. Jeez, seems like the big airports could have some co-operative system to provide hard-shell bike cases for a reasonable fee.
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