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Shipping Bikes with United

Old 07-20-17, 08:15 PM
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raria
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Shipping Bikes with United

Hi,

I'm going back home to Europe (France) for a bit and wanted to bring my bikes and my families bikes (4 in total). We do a lot of touring.

There is no longer sea mail so BikeFlight etc just use FedEx for these type of shipping and it cost literally thousands of dollars per bike EACH way.

So I'm going to take them as luggage ($200 each way) with United.

A few questions.

a) The kids bikes are quite small and I can easily fit two into one cardboard box which they were shipped in. Does United examine each package to see how any bikes are in there? Will united charge me for two bikes if I put two into one box.

b) I'm really in two minds about shipping my bikes. I would prefer to buy a good quality bike in Europe and sell it. But I can't find an equivalent to Nashbar of BikesDirect that sell good quality bikes reasonably in Europe. Even the starter bikes you can do light touring with (i.e. Giant Defy 5, Trek 1.1, Specialized Allez E5 etc.) which normally cost $700 full price in the US cost $1100+ in France.


Any other suggestions on how to proceed?
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Old 07-20-17, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post

Any other suggestions on how to proceed?
Fly British Airways.
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Old 07-20-17, 09:15 PM
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And Turkish

Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Fly British Airways.
I found those airlines that don't charge extra have extra requirements. For example BA requires a bike case but united allows shipping in the cardboard boxes bikes are shipped in.
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Old 07-20-17, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
I found those airlines that don't charge extra have extra requirements. For example BA requires a bike case but united allows shipping in the cardboard boxes bikes are shipped in.
I haven't flown with BA, but I have friends who have and who have flown with their bicycles in plastic bags.

In fact, when we were in Heathrow in 2012 looking for bicycle boxes so we could fly to Canada, someone from British Airways heard our plight (we were wandering from airline to airline asking for boxes but hadn't reached British Airways yet) and offered us a couple large plastic bags.

We rushed over to Air Canada (our airline) with the BA rep offering us the bags and asked if we could fly with those. The Air Canada rep hesitated and then said that if we really could not find boxes, they guessed the bags would do.

As it happened we did finally locate boxes.

So ... from our experience BA is pretty relaxed about what people can use to protect their bicycles. That was, however, in 2012.
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Old 07-20-17, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
a) The kids bikes are quite small and I can easily fit two into one cardboard box which they were shipped in. Does United examine each package to see how any bikes are in there? Will united charge me for two bikes if I put two into one box.
Likely depends on your gate agent. In four flight legs (albeit not on United), I have never had one care what was in the box, so long as it was under the weight limit. No one looked until I got to oversize security, who only care about dangerous items, not airline policies. Last trip, they didn't even weigh it, just had me declare a weight. The airline reserves the right to look in everything, though.

But as Machka says, there are better options, if you aren't restricted to United. I've flown Wow Air, Brussels Air, and Air Canada, all allowed you cardboard boxes and all were $50ish or less for bikes.

As to buying one there, you gotta think outside the box. They have many brands that aren't available here, as well as used bike shops and markets. If you are taking kids young enough you can pack multiple bikes in one box, looking for a specific touring style bike is probably too narrow of a focus, there are plenty of options that are suitable. I know you are going to France, but this is a chain type place we stopped at in Belgium, quite a few trekking options in the 500-1000EUR range. Other than that, hybrids from 400EUR and drop bar from 700EUR, just to give you an idea of what you can find https://www.fiets.be/fietsen/stadsfietsen/toerfietsen
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Old 07-20-17, 10:22 PM
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Also consider the difficulty of selling before you come back. Maybe consider renting, especially if you don't need the bikes for a long duration?
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Old 07-20-17, 10:32 PM
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I don't know where in the USA you are, but in most large cities there are businesses that specialize in low cost shipping of personal goods to just about every country. Most specialize in a few countries, and the typical mode is to gather a bunch of shipments, load them into a sea container, or contracted igloo for air shipment, then break them apart and arrange delivery at the other end.

You can find these guys on the internet by searching things like "Shipping to France". I'm sure that if there's one near you, you can save significantly vs. other shipping methods, if you're shipping the bikes + a bunch of other stuff. Anyway, you can't lose by checking.
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Old 07-21-17, 05:46 AM
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We've flown United from Montreal. Our bikes were the only checked items. Getting our boarding passes from a terminal, we got the luggage tag and proceeded to the oversize drop. No one ever raised an eyebrow.

We've had to pay for the return leg (no automated check in).

(I usually try to fly Air Transat when going to Paris. Their nominal fee is 25 euros if I remember properly, and can be avoided on the eastbound leg by using the terminal to check in).
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Old 07-21-17, 05:50 AM
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Lufthansa has a roll on bike program for some flights from the USA. Two years ago we rolled on from La Gaurdia and Copenhagen for our return. They charged us in NY but not Copenhagen. I think the charge was $100 or $150 per bike.

Not all flights have the policy or structures to take care of the roll-on and there is a bike limit for the flight. So, you need to check. And, if you elect to try this, make sure you know the rules. In NY, the supervisor had to call the L office in order to verify the policy. Not surprising as the counter is outsourced and bikes are not something high on the training program.

The only problem was a fender broken on one of the two bikes. When arriving in Edinburgh, I took pictures and reported the problem. I proceed to get new fenders at a bike store down the road from our lodging. L provided a full refund.
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Old 07-21-17, 07:23 AM
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It's been a few years since I flew United with my bike in a box. (I now have a Bike Friday which packs into a regular suitcase.) But when I still had to deal with a bike box, nobody at United ever opened the box. TSA will open it, but that is after you're finished dealing with United at check-in.
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Old 07-21-17, 04:20 PM
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If you bring a bike into Europe and plan to have it there over 90 days, I believe that there is a high tax on importing it. If you plan to be there for longer than that you might want to research that.
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Old 07-21-17, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
If you bring a bike into Europe and plan to have it there over 90 days, I believe that there is a high tax on importing it. If you plan to be there for longer than that you might want to research that.
Right. But if I bring it over as luggage will they charge me duty? That's one of the benefits of taking the luggage route and I believe why the airlines charge a premium.
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Old 07-21-17, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
If you bring a bike into Europe and plan to have it there over 90 days, I believe that there is a high tax on importing it. If you plan to be there for longer than that you might want to research that.
When I moved to Prague for five months, customs wasn't any different than going there for a week: Just walk through the green line exiting arrivals.

That said, if you're there more than three months, you will need a visa if you only have US citizenship.
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Old 07-27-17, 12:25 PM
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I gave up on United (or as I call them the Untied Airlines) when they lost my tandem for two days on a direct flight. They "found" the tandem and delivered it unharmed but would not tell me where it had gone and why.

Last edited by arctos; 07-27-17 at 12:26 PM. Reason: add a word
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