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Packing bike for flight

Old 03-31-10, 05:50 PM
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Packing bike for flight

I booked a flight on Southwest and am a bit concerned about the rules for box size. I see two different and possibly conflicting policies. The "Sports Equipment" bike rules say:

"Non-motorized Bicycles, including Bike Friday and Co-Pilot, will be accepted in substitution of a free piece of checked baggage at no additional charge provided the bicycle is properly packaged and the box containing the bicycle fits within the 62-inch sizing limit and weighs 50 lbs or less . (Maximum weight is 50 pounds and maximum size is 62 inches (length + width + height) per checked piece of luggage). The handlebars, kickstand, and pedals must be removed and placed inside the box. A $50.00 each-way charge applies to bicycles that donít meet the above criteria. Bicycles packaged in a cardboard box or soft-sided case will be transported as a conditionally accepted item."

Note the lack of a maximum measurement with the $50 bike charge.

The oversize baggage section says:

"Weight and Size Allowance: Maximum weight is 50 pounds and maximum size is 62 inches (length + width + height) per checked piece of luggage. Effective June 17, 2009, overweight items from 51 to 100 pounds and oversized items in excess of 62 inches but not more than 80 inches (e.g.; surfboards, bicycles, vaulting poles) will be accepted for a charge of $50 per item."

The "not more than 80 inches" concerns me, but since I have never seen a bike box for a regular bike without couplers that is under 80" I figure they must not enforce that for bikes especially since they they don't mention it is the sports equipment section.

Has anyone been refused on Southwest because their bike box was over 80"?

I did call SW and got an answer that it was OK, but I still wonder if a baggage clerk is likely to interpret it differently.
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Old 03-31-10, 06:00 PM
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ah.... sure.
 
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I give up...

The more i read the above post.. the more what i had typed made little sense.

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Old 03-31-10, 07:01 PM
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Just use a normal bike box, I've never had a clerk get the measuring tape out. They just charge you the bike charge.
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Old 03-31-10, 07:43 PM
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I have a "standard" wheels-on airlines box right here in my basement. Let's see.....it measures 69"+40"+9"= 118". That's a lot bigger than 80". Might be good to confirm again that they don't require a bike shop sized box with the front wheel off. All the other airlines I've used supply the big box so probably not to worry.
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Old 03-31-10, 08:00 PM
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Don't sweat it. Bicycles are normally exempt from the max size restrictions.

This is what is says about bicycles.

Non-motorized Bicycles, including Bike Friday and Co-Pilot, will be accepted in substitution of a free piece of checked baggage at no additional charge provided the bicycle is properly packaged and the box containing the bicycle fits within the 62-inch sizing limit and weighs 50 lbs or less . (Maximum weight is 50 pounds and maximum size is 62 inches (length + width + height) per checked piece of luggage). The handlebars, kickstand, and pedals must be removed and placed inside the box. A $50.00 each-way charge applies to bicycles that don’t meet the above criteria. Bicycles packaged in a cardboard box or soft-sided case will be transported as a conditionally accepted item.



It does not mention an 80 inch limit. That is for other luggage.

You will see similar policies for most airlines. They usually do not define the max size for the bike box.


Actually I am surprised there is not a restriction for tandems. Most airlines expressly forbid them. (Though if you have couplers I think they will let you slide.)


FYI Check the equipment you will be flying. If it is a smaller aircraft you may want to call ahead and give them a heads up.



And FYI you are permitted to bring a parachute as carry on. You are juat not allowed to wear it in flight.

It upsets the passengers .

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Old 03-31-10, 08:10 PM
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My experience has been that regardless of advance planning and one's best attempts at nailing down the rules, it all comes down tho the overworked airline employee at the check-in counter. I have had the best luck when I have removed both wheels and organized the bike and wheels to fit in the smallest possible box. This is generally something on the order of a BMK sized bike box. Sorry I can't provide measurements, I throw 'em away when I'm done. My technique involves some disassembly but I don't remove the fork. I try to put it together so that the whole thing can be pulled out of the top of the box in one unit so TSA can eyeball it and slip it back in with minimal effort. The airline counter people aren't going to look in the box and unless the box says "bicycle", are not going to know or even question what's in the box. I usually construct, or reconstruct, a box out of more than one bike box, using a utility knife and a hot glue gun, making it as small as practical and "rolling my own" cardboard internal cross pieces to resist crushing. I also usually add a couple extra flat pieces of cardboard on each long side to make the package a little more rigid and puncture resistant. I cut a couple oblong hand-hold handles, one on each side close to opposite sides at the ends (wherever it seems to make a balanced carry) to make it easy to pick up and hopefully less likely to be abused by a frustrated baggage handler. So far this has worked out without any damage or baggage up charges. I have not, however, flown on Southwest. Do the best you can to make it small, don't label it a bike, and smile as you approach the counter.

Good luck and safe travels
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Old 04-01-10, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
Just use a normal bike box, I've never had a clerk get the measuring tape out. They just charge you the bike charge.
"Normal bike box" = big airline box or smaller box like new bikes come in?
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Old 04-01-10, 07:25 AM
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You are right. That is confusing since the weight and size allowance section does specifically mention bikes. But like others have said, I doubt they will blink an eye.

One thing you might try is curb-side check-in if it's available. I did that once with my bike and the hurried employee never even asked me what was in the box and, thus, never charged me. That was my plan, and I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling TSA employees. At the time, they were checking oversized luggage right near where the curb-side check in was. The airline employee apparently saw the bike when TSA opened the box. I am going though security with a Cheshire Cat grin thinking I got over on them. Just as I clear security I hear a page asking me to come to the gate. There I found a a supervisor waiting to take my credit card for the $75 bike charge. When she admonished me for not telling them there was a bike inside I said simply "No one ever asked."
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Old 04-01-10, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
"Normal bike box" = big airline box or smaller box like new bikes come in?
I use a box that new bikes come in, from the bike shop. I've heard of these big airline boxes, but never been able to confirm their existence in advance, so making a trip to the airport and hoping to find one in the time before my flight departs is too sketchy a proposition for me.

I had a non-existent-big-box experience at Greyhound once, I think that put me off it. I like to pack the bike in advance.

Come to think of it, all my US tours I have not used a bike to get home - I rode home or got a car ride. My overseas tours, one time I saved the box from the flight in at a hostel, the other time I got a box from a bike shop, a friend helped me pick it up & get it to the airport.
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Old 04-01-10, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
I use a box that new bikes come in, from the bike shop. I've heard of these big airline boxes, but never been able to confirm their existence in advance, so making a trip to the airport and hoping to find one in the time before my flight departs is too sketchy a proposition for me.
me too... The boxes new bikes come in have always been accepted. Some of them big enough that I only had to take the front wheel off, but usually both wheels and racks aswell as handlebars, pedals and saddle...

apart from that I take the QR's off (and replace between the dropouts/fork with plastic tubing cut to the right length), zip tie the removed derailleur to the chain stay, and a bit of extra cardboard to stop the sides of the hubs pushing through the box.

... oh and wear the antlers on your head...
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Old 04-01-10, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by imi
...
... oh and wear the antlers on your head...
I used to do that before 9/11, but I can't get them through security nowadays.
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