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Air Travel with Bicycle

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Old 10-21-18, 02:09 PM
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iTrod
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Air Travel with Bicycle

I plan to check my bike as oversize/overweight luggage when I fly to Paris next August. I am thinking of using the the Thule RoundTrip Transition hard case. Are there any suggestions or recommendations from the folks who have done this before? It looks like United Airlines will charge $200 if the case is under 70 lb. and $400 for 70-100 lb. The case is 39 lb., so it may be a bit of a challenge to keep the total weight under 70 lb.
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Old 10-21-18, 04:24 PM
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Why wouldn't you check it as a bicycle .... it's usually cheaper that way.
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Old 10-21-18, 04:52 PM
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To keep weight down, put stuff in your other luggage. Shoes, pedals, helmet, tools, lights etc. If you're just over weight, remove the chain and pack it in your bags.

TSA will open your box. Make it easy for them to open, pack up correctly, and close. Having stuff out makes that easier.

Actual airline charges are all over the place. I've been charged $100, $200, 100 Euros and 0 on international flights. Prepare for the worst, be nice to the agents, go with the flow.
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Old 10-21-18, 06:24 PM
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Whew, that is a heavy configuration.

You're planning a year in advance?

What type of bike and riding? Is that a one-way charge, or a RT charge?

You might consider:
  • Folding Bicycle.
  • Breakdown Bicycle (S&S Couplers, or some other bike).
  • CARDBOARD. I'm not sure what the weight of cardboard + packing is, but it may be easier to hit your weight limit, and perhaps even stuff some clothes into the box.

If you start approaching $500 for your box, shipping, etc. Then you might be able to snag a used travel bike and save money. And, if you hit a good price point, you might be able to sell it afterwards if you wish, and recover much of your money.
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Old 10-21-18, 07:23 PM
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wow, that's a heavy box. I think everyone charges $200 for a bicycle, and then 200 euro back. We flew air france, where bikes travel free, but it turns out that Delta charges you when they fly Air France flights. Being a jerk about it in Philly meant they comped that flight, but the French Delta employees were having none of that, and it was 200 euro or no bike.

I borrowed a case and there was a little bit of moving stuff between the bike case and a suitcase. don't remember how much of that was weight and how much was space. I think there ended up being clothes in the bike box and bike parts in the suitcase. I definitely had a scale in the garage while packing
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Old 10-22-18, 02:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Why wouldn't you check it as a bicycle .... it's usually cheaper that way.
https://www.united.com/web/en-us/con...ts.aspx?POS=US


Oh, and I'd go with a cardboard box ... lighter.

We usually have no problem coming in under the 50 lb limit. OK, granted, we're usually at about 48 lbs, but it's under.
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Old 10-22-18, 08:10 AM
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you have to read between the lines, that is saying that any bike that isn't an S&S or other knock down configuration is going to cost $$$$. Specifically, $200 for overseas flights. I like the fact that they say that if it's under the normal size limits, it flies for regular price. I think some airlines leave that out, and then there is a battle over the $200/200 euro.
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Old 10-22-18, 10:32 AM
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A luggage scale is the travelers best friend. I usually aim for 48 pounds (or 1 kg under the kg limit when out of USA). I have bought several luggage scales and they all compare quite precisely, but the airport airline scale usually adds a half pound to a pound.

You can buy expensive ones, but I bought cheap ones on Ebay, shipped from China, takes a month for shipping. Not sure if the escalating trade war will impact small low cost parcels that come in the mail from China will be impacted or not. Some of these are from Malaysia.
https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_fro...+40+kg&_sop=15

Some of my relatives saw me use a luggage scale, they all expressed interest so I knew what to buy them for christmas presents the next year. That gave me a chance to compare several of them for repeatability.

My expedition bike is quite heavy, thus I usually carry some small dense heavy things like pedals in my carry on. But anything that a security agent could think is a weapon or could do harm (like tools), I do not put that in the carry on. There usually is no weight limit on carry on luggage. I do not want my helmet to get beat up by any luggage handlers that handle my luggage roughly, I usually wear the helmet onto the plane and store in the overhead.
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Old 10-31-18, 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
..., I usually wear the helmet onto the plane and store in the overhead.
Maybe that explains it.

I saw a guy flying from Portland to Dallas the other day who was wearing two cowboy hats, one on top of the other. A few days later, on the return flight, there he was again in the same getup.

I suppose he was keeping them safe from the baggage handlers.
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Old 11-14-18, 11:29 PM
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International flights are 23kg which comes out to around 50.5 lbs. If you are using a luggage scale change it to kg and if they ask ???s tell them you weighed it for international flights in kg. Also if you don't pack a whole bike, ship it as bike parts, costs less.
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Old 11-15-18, 12:16 AM
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Stop paying for the packaging. Get a lighter case.
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Old 11-15-18, 10:19 AM
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Since the OP is traveling with other people, he can redistribute the load between suitcases. That's what we did, one suitcase for 4 people and the bike box. But we only stayed for 6 days. I kept it under the weight limit. That's going to be tough starting at 39 pounds though
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Old 11-16-18, 12:48 PM
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United charged my wife and I 200 for each bike each way when we went to Paris. AAAArrrrgggg. 800 bucks total. Our next summer trip (Frankfurt to Vienna ride) we're flying SAS. They let me upgrade our allowed 1 bag each to bikes at no charge. We'll still need a an extra bag as carry on limits are 18 pounds, but if we share one bag that will be 100 each way, saving us 600 over United.


Sounds like you have chosen your case, so this won't help much, but we used EVOC cases which are pretty lightweight and easy to move around. They are soft sided, but well padded. The wisdom of our crowd as that hard cases get treated as indestructible and are tossed about and banged on, and that our soft case might be treated more carefully. Our bikes survived with no issues, but I admit I worried the entire time the airline had them.
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Old 11-17-18, 01:28 PM
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I've only done 2 round-trip flights but I put my carbon road bike in a clear plastic bag and didn't pay anything beyond the normal extra-bag fee. Westjet seems pretty good but it's a pain going to France with them, they only fly out of Halifax and it's a red-eye so I am not sure I am going to go with them if I go to France.
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Old 11-19-18, 04:10 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
We flew air france, where bikes travel free, but it turns out that Delta charges you when they fly Air France flights.
Many if not most international flights are sold as code share flights. The baggage policy that applies is that of the airline operating the flight, not the airline under whose flight code you booked the flight. On the booking it usually says "operated by ..." to identify the operating company. Also, code share flights usually have 4-digit flight numbers while the operating company's flight number will be 1-3 digits. So if your ticket says AF1234 but it's also listed as DL56, it's really a Delta flight, not an Air France one.

Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I like the fact that they say that if it's under the normal size limits, it flies for regular price.
Yes, United's policy differs from other airlines in that regard. There are also airlines that apply the standard weight limit to bikes and other sports equipment, but give a more generous size limit (more than 62 linear inches / 158 cm), for example Qatar airlines was like that when I flew Asia to Europe with them last time. Some airlines require at least a cardboard box, others accept soft bags. You really have to check the small print for each and every airline, because there is no set standard.

With regards to size limits, airlines are somewhat less likely to enforce those in all cases than weight limits. Every box gets weighed on check-in as that's required to compute fuel requirements, load balancing, etc. but relatively few boxes get measured with a tape measure, unless they look oversize. You're more likely to get away with a slightly oversize box than an overweight one.

Originally Posted by cccorlew View Post
The wisdom of our crowd as that hard cases get treated as indestructible and are tossed about and banged on, and that our soft case might be treated more carefully.
That is also what I heard from international travelers. Hard cases will get the same rough treatment as regular suitcases, whereas a softer bag or cardboard box is more likely to receive a big "fragile" sticker and be handled separately. Depending on the airline and the airport, that may not buy you much, especially if you transit through other airports, but on a direct flight with a good airline it helps a lot.
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Old 11-19-18, 04:33 AM
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It looks like for Air France bicycles are no longer free, even if your checked-in luggage allowance would cover enough pieces! They are counted separately, per this policy.

Surcharges for weight limit of 23 kg / 50 lb:
  • 150 USD for a flight from the US to Europe
  • 125 EUR for a flight from Europe to the US or Canada
  • 175 CAD for a flight from Canada to Europe
Total dimensions (L+W+H) have to be under 300 cm / 118 in. Air France sells bike boxes sized 175 x 21.5 x 86 cm / 68 x 8 x 33 in. You have to let them know at least 48 hours in advance about your intention to bring a bike.
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Old 11-19-18, 04:47 AM
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I found this helpful overview of bicycle policies by airline compiled by one case manufacturer.

Nevertheless, I would always recommend confirming with the airline's official online policy on the website, in case it recently changed and also to bring a print-out to the checkin, as sometimes the gate agents are ill-informed about the airline's official policy.
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Old 11-19-18, 09:25 AM
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I don't think an Air France owned plane ever lands in the U.S. anyway, so they are out, as is Delta

Apparently the airlines know that they have gotten rid of anyone that hates to be jerked around, and now are going with even more fees. I think we paid for a boarding pass when my son flew to Spain.

Last edited by unterhausen; 11-19-18 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 11-19-18, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by joewein View Post
...
With regards to size limits, airlines are somewhat less likely to enforce those in all cases than weight limits. Every box gets weighed on check-in as that's required to compute fuel requirements, load balancing, etc. but relatively few boxes get measured with a tape measure, unless they look oversize. You're more likely to get away with a slightly oversize box than an overweight one.
....
Completely agree. I was on a trip with two people that owned Ritchey Break Away bikes and they both used a Ritchey case. Those cases exceed the 62 inch criteria by a small amount (I do not recall exactly by how much they are oversize), but one of them said that he had never been charged the oversize fee, the other said he had been charged it once. Both of them had taken a lot of trips.

If I fly on Southwest where two 62 inch bags will fly for free, I will take a bike in an S&S backpack case on the plane with me. And if I am traveling international on any airline, the bike will be in an S&S backpack case on the plane. But domestic travels with other airlines, I am inclined to ship the bike by bike flights to my destination. Bike flights with an oversize package is cheaper than most other USA domestic airlines for a second 62 inch case.

Another advantage of an S&S case is that you can take a normal taxi to the airport. In my community two of the cab companies now use Prius cars. And my S&S case plus another piece of luggage will fit in the Prius trunk.
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Old 11-19-18, 11:29 AM
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that's a good point about the size, we had to find a van taxi when we went to France in 2011. I used a Trico case, which is the same size as most non-S&S cases. There are smaller cases for full size bikes. Orucase is the main company I was thinking about (link about airlines above) They even say they can get a normal bike in a sub-62 inch bag. Better have a replaceable derailleur hanger though.

I need to get off my butt and finish my S&S frame.
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Old 11-25-18, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I don't think an Air France owned plane ever lands in the U.S. anyway, so they are out, as is Delta
What makes you say that, as it's definitely not true?

I just tried a quick search for SFO to CDG on the AF website and there were Air France-operated flights available. I am sure there will be from many other major cities, though in the case of Atlanta you're more likely to find Delta code share flight because it's their hub.
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Old 11-26-18, 10:52 AM
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It can be hard to tell at times what airline you are actually flying on when you buy the ticket. I went to Europe several years ago, the ticket said British Airways, and all four flights (or was it six?) were operated by different airlines. At one time on that trip I walked up to a British Airways ticketing agent to check my luggage and they told me that not only was I at the wrong airline (with my British Airways ticket) but I was at the wrong terminal.
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Old 12-06-18, 08:43 AM
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Would like to add a note to the conversation that most airlines will not insure a bike unless it is in a hard case. I never fly without insuring the bike. Airlines are normally only responsible for a few dollars per pound if the bags are lost. Friends lost their $10,000 tandem when coming back from Europe. No compensation because it was not insured. The trouble is that airline agents don't know how to insure something because then never do it. So it can take an extra 45minutes for them to look it all up.

I now insure my bikes for travel with an independent insurance company that does bike insurance.

When using a cardboard box it can be a problem in Europe because many bike shops get their bikes shrink wrapped in vinyl bags, so no boxes available.
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Old 12-06-18, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike_Kelly View Post
Would like to add a note to the conversation that most airlines will not insure a bike unless it is in a hard case. I never fly without insuring the bike. Airlines are normally only responsible for a few dollars per pound if the bags are lost. Friends lost their $10,000 tandem when coming back from Europe. No compensation because it was not insured. The trouble is that airline agents don't know how to insure something because then never do it. So it can take an extra 45minutes for them to look it all up.

I now insure my bikes for travel with an independent insurance company that does bike insurance.

When using a cardboard box it can be a problem in Europe because many bike shops get their bikes shrink wrapped in vinyl bags, so no boxes available.
Good point. Last time I went to Europe, I had the Expedia Total Protection Plan, I just looked at the coverage that I had (in 2016, may have changed since) and the upper limit on baggage and personal effects was $1000 USD.
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Old 12-06-18, 12:17 PM
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In Sept2018 British Airways charged us nothing for our bikes, packed in boxes, weighing less than 23kg each, flying Denver to Munich.
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