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Airline Baggage Regulation for Bikes

 

 

 


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Preface

In the dark of winter 2007, and since, many airlines have effectively increased cost of a trans-Atlantic ticket for a bicyclist by as much as $500 (Lufthansa) and $400 (Delta).  If the base ticket price is $900 that is over a 30-50% increase in the cost of travel.  American Airlines, British Airways and most of the Asia/Pacific airlines are still bicycle-friendly and don't surcharge bicycles on trans-ocean flights.

Prior to January of 2007 most airlines let bicycles on trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flights go free, in lieu of one piece of baggage (as long as they were within the two-bag limit and under the weight 30kg). Early in 2007, most of the world's airlines seem to have entered into collusion and simultaneously changed their economy class baggage regulations for bicycles. By February of 2007 the economy class regulations, for most airlines, call for all bicycles being charged on these flights.  There was another big jump in fees in September 2008.  The charges now range from $80 to $300 each way -- $160 to $600 roundtrip -- and maybe even higher because the changes aren't announced or published on websites so they are very time consuming to track!

North-South trip (i.e. North America-South America and Europe-Africa) have long had less bicycle-friendly policies so the change has not been as abrupt.  In fact, there are some seasons (~June to ~October and Christmas), that some airline serving South America, ban (embargo) ALL over-size baggage (most bicycles) on flights. Often these embargos are not clearly published on the websites.  You will need to call the airline and ask about "baggage embargo" to get the details.

Note: Around the world, if you are flying economy class, and NOT flying to North America, you baggage allowance is likely to simply be 20kg (44lbs.)  [If a box is required it will take-up 3-4kg.] Any baggage weighing more than 20kg is subject to a surcharge.

None of this is not a pure weight issues because many of the airline's lean bicycling customers, plus their bikes, are going to weigh less than many of their other customers without any bags.  It is not a size issue because today’s modern airplanes can, and have, easily accommodated bicycles.  And, if it's a bottom line issue, the airlines are delusional, because there aren’t enough bikes flying to make a significant difference in there revenue.

While some of the airlines are talking green, they are simultaneous working to undermine green options by their customers!

The work-around for the bicyclists is not as easy as renting a bike at their destinations.  There are very few rental bikes available in the world that are suitable for serious environmentally-friendly, multi-day, long distance, bike touring.

We encourage bicyclists who are incensed by this to react.  As much as it might be good to write to the airlines, they apparently have big wastebaskets where paper falls silently, but if enough people write at least it will get full.  It might be more effective to have the local media do a local story about a local person who has been hurt these policies.  Almost every region has an airport, so there is also a broader local angle.  Almost every region has a local bike club, if they can be recruited to the cause, you might start to get the critical mass necessary to be visible. And, it also wouldn’t hurt to find a representative in Congress who was willing to ask some questions.

Flying with your bike

Airline baggage regulations for bicycles are a moving target and the airlines can be very inconsistent (i.e. different charges in different directions, and applying amounts that don't seem to be reflected any where in their public, written policies.)  One traveler going from Asia to Europe on Malaysia airline paid nothing extra for his bike going, but was charged 483 on the return.  We have also posted the details of an experience of inconsistency with American Airlines, though it is not unique to customers of American Airlines.

The new environment of "cooperation" and code sharing has added to the confusion.  For example:, we have heard of the following situation:

  • With Air "A" flight number and are flying on an Air "A" plane the bike is free in lieu of first piece if you have no more than two check bags.
  • With Air "B" flight number and are flying on an Air "A" plane the bike is free in lieu of first piece if you have no more than two check bags.
  • With Air "B" flight number and are flying on a Air "B" plane you pay $150 or more.
  • With Air "A" flight number and are flying on a Air "B" plane you pay $150 or more.

For most code-share agreements, it is the rules of the operating carrier (the owner of the aircraft) which prevails in most cases as they are paying for the fuel, loading personnel etc.

If you are flying on ONE ticket with multiple segment (connections) and the different segments have different baggage allowances, you should be given the most generous baggage allowance for the whole journey.  If you bought separate tickets for each segment of the journey, the separate baggage allowance for each segment will apply.

If you are flying on one ticket with multiple segments (up to three) with multiple airlines, ideally, and usually, the airlines have "inter-line agreement" so when you initially check your bags, they will be checked through to your final destination.  In this situation you should only face having to pay once.  If they aren't checked through to the final destinations and you have to claim and recheck the in route, all bets are off.  Save your receipt from your initial baggage payment as it may help you avoid additional assessments.

The airlines argument for surcharges are bicycles require special handling and are quite bulky causing luggage holds to be loaded in very specific ways.  This is also true for large musical instruments and very large dogs in kennels.  Many airlines have specific charges for other sporting equipment as well: golf bags, surfboards, ski equipment, etc

Folding bikes, like Bike Fridays, that fit in a single suitcases, generally circumvent all of these hassles, as do S & S torque couplings (precision fittings for steel and titanium bicycle frames that allow the frame to separate into two pieces and be re-coupled. Significant disassembly and reassembly is required.)

Ruster Sports has a two-case system called the Hen House, which meets the dimensions to fly as checked baggage.  The systems takes up two bags of any allowance and requires significant disassembly of the bike (pedals, seat, handlebars, headset, wheels and rear derailleur -- an instructional video and hard-copy instructions are available) .

Why can the airlines charge so much for bikes? Because the consumer (bicyclists) rarely complain and haven't organized a protest or campaign. In the USA the major membership bicycle-organizations (LAB, ACA, IMBA, USCF) haven't advocated or organized for general bicyclists on this issue.

The following is the best information we have.  The airlines don't notify us when they raise their tariffs or change rules.  If you have information that differs from the chart below please email it to us at "ibike (at) ibike.org".  For a general essay on flying with or shipping your bike see "Flying With Your Bike".

Note: Airlines are adopting a zero-tolerance policy to ANYTHING pressured on board, including tires, gas filled shocks, CO2 cartridges, etc.  While, if in good shape,  most of these items are unlikely to explode, airline and security personnel don't know the maintenance, use or abuse history of any given item, so they draw the line at none.  If you get caught with pressurized gas filled shock, we don’t know of any work around at this time.

As an alternative, though not necessary less expensive, you can send your bike and other luggage to yourself to your destination using a door-to-door shipping service.  Domestically the fee tend to be worth considering.  Internationally the fees tend to be for the wealthy.  The service we have heard of are: The Luggage Club, UPS, DHL, FedEx, Carry-my-bags (UK), First Luggage,  Luggage Free, Luggage Forward, Luggage Express. In the USA, an economical option is Amtrak, but it is not door-to-door and there need to be a freight-handling station at both where you want to send the bicycle from and receive it.

If you feel you have been wronged by an airline, and you have exhaust you options for reaching a settlement with them, depending upon where you live, you can consider taking them to court.  In the USA, because of the dollar amount, these case are often appropriate for small claims court.  The website "Sue the Airlines" has information on this process.

Notes and Explanations for Table of Baggage Regulations:

Baggage Allowance: To/From North America

Basic free baggage allowance for economy class on domestic and international flights originating or terminating in the USA or Canada. Most airlines flying to and from North America use a "piece concept" on those flights. All baggage usually must meet standards for size and weight. The size is calculated as the sum of the length + height + width. The information here shows the number of bags (dash), the maximum size (slash) and the maximum weight. The allowance may include several bags with different size and weight maximums. Beyond North America (Asia, Europe, Africa and South America) airlines often use a "weight concept" (usually 20 kg or 44 pounds for economy class.)  ** The baggage allowance for many airlines has dropped from 70 to 50 pounds / 32 to 23 kg, per item, in 2006, and many airlines have STOP allowing bicycles in lieu of one piece of baggage -- ALL BICYCLE PAY!  It never hurts to check the airline's website and call the airline for the latest changes in regulations.

Baggage Allowance: Carry-on

The information here shows the number of bags (dash), the maximum size (slash) and the maximum weight of each back. The size is calculated as the sum of the length + height + width.

Bicycle Tariff: Domestic/Regional

Tariffs on a bicycle as baggage on a flight within the carrier’s home country and region. An asterisk “*”, indicates under the "piece system" no charge for one bicycle in lieu of one piece of checked baggage (the oversize is waived), if otherwise within the checked baggage piece and weight allowance. Always check the airline's website or call the airline for the 'fine print' and the latest changes in regulations.  All prices are in US$ unless otherwise noted.

Bicycle Tariff: To/From North America

Tariffs on a bicycle as baggage on a on a transoceanic flight to and from North America.  Flight between North and South America can have total different allowance and restrictions depending upon the country and time of year so you will need to contact the airline. An asterisk “*”, indicates under the "piece system" no charge for one bicycle in lieu of one piece of checked baggage (the oversize is waived), if otherwise within the checked baggage piece and weight allowance (often 23kg per item). Always check the airline's website or call the airline for the 'fine print' and the latest changes in regulations.  All prices are in US$ unless otherwise noted.

Minimum Packing Requirement / Special Instructions

Indicates how the airline would like the bicycle to be packed for transport. "Box" also includes commercially available cases and travel bags ‑‑ in essence the bicycle must be packed. "Bag" refers to large clear plastic bags that are available from the airlines that allow them. "Handlebars turned" means, handlebars must be turned parallel to the frame. This column also gives other requirement of the airline that you might encounter when traveling with a bicycle. Some airlines require advanced notice from passengers traveling with bicycles.

           
Airline U.S. Phone Internet URL Baggage Allowance:
To/From North America
Baggage Allowance:
Carry-on
Bicycle Tariff: Domestic/Regional Bicycle Tariff:
To/From North America
Bicycle Tariff: Tandems Minimum Packing Requirements / Special Instructions / Other Notes
Aer Lingus 800-474-7424 www.aerlingus.com 2 bags, <36 kg total 1 €35 Free * Same regulations apply. Bag required. Make reservation.
Aeroflot 310-281-5300  www.aeroflot.org 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45 in/
10 lbs
  (Star Alliance member)   Do not check bags through to Moscow. Only check bags with Aeroflot at LAX.
Aerolineas Argentinas 800-333-0276 www.aerolineas.com.ar 2- 62" / 50 lbs each   Free * Free *    
Air Canada 800-776-3000  www.aircanada.ca 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45 in/
15 lbs
Fixed fee: US $50 / CND 50 for each bag Fixed fee CND 50 (Star Alliance member)   Bag or box required. One bicycle per passenger.
Air China 212-371-9898  www.airchina.com.cn 2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1- 45 in Free * Free *   Beijing tel: 86-010-6601-6667
Air France 800-237-2747  www.airfrance.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1 >20kg/44 lbs
20-80
Free *
2nd bag $50 or 50
Otherwise -
Overweight €150 / $200
Same regulations apply. Box required. Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Notify when ordering ticket or ASAP.
Air India 718-632-0117  www.airindia.com 2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1- 45 in. Free * Free *   Box required.
Air Jamaica 800-523-5585  www.airjamaica.com 2- 62" / 50 lbs each 1- 40 lbs   $25    
Air Namibia     <50kg 1-<7kg A charge equal to 5kg of excess baggage     Box required. Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Air New Zealand 800-262-1234  www.airnewzealand.co.nz 1 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 11 lbs $25 $150 Same regulations apply. Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Air Transat (charter) 877-872-6728 www.airtransat.com 20 to 23kg depending upon destination     Free * <20kg   Handlebars turned, pedals removed, in solid bag or box
Alaska / Horizon 800-426-0333  www.alaska-air.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1 If: overweight $50, oversize $50-75   Same regulations apply. "soft or hard sided case designed specifically for the sporting equipment piece."
ANA (All Nippon) 800-235-9262  svc.ana.co.jp/eng/   2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1 >20 kg/44 lbs, fee varies by destination Free *(Star Alliance members)    
Airline U.S. Phone Internet URL Baggage Allowance:
To/From North America
Baggage Allowance:
Carry-on
Bicycle Tariff: Domestic/Regional Bicycle Tariff:
To/From North America
Bicycle Tariff: Tandems Minimum Packing Requirements / Special Instructions / Other Notes
Alitalia 800-223-5730  www.alitaliausa.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 5kg 5 / kg over 20kg vary by destination, contact carrier   Bag or box required.
American 800-433-7300  www.aa.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45 in / 40 lbs regular baggage charge plus $100 $150 on web, but often not charge   Box required. Check in 90 minutes prior to departure.
Asiana   us.flyasiana.com/ 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45 in/
12 lbs
  Fees for overweight & oversize: $110-$130    
Austrian 800-843-0002  www.austrianair.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45 in/
12 lbs
$100-$200 $250 (Star Alliance carriers)   Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Box recommended
Avianca 800-824-2622  www.avianca.com 1- 50 lbs 1- 10kg Free * Free *   Box required.
Brazilian 800-468-2744  www.flyvba.com.br  2- 62" / 50 lbs each **   Free *     Box required.
British Airways 800-247-9297  www.british-airways.com Trans-Atlantic (except Argentina)
2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each
1- 13 lbs 1bag - 62in / 51lbs, plus 1 bicycle <51lbs / 23kg.  Excess tariffs:
Domestic: £30/bag
Shorthaul: £60/bag
Longhaul: £120 per bag
Save 30% on by pre-paying online.
Free * Treated as oversized baggage. Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Special rules departing GER. Request in advance on ATP aircraft.
Caribbean Airlines 877-386-2942 www.caribbean-airlines.com 2- 50 lbs each 1   $100    
Cathay Pacific 800-233-2742  www.cathaypacific.com 2- 50 lbs each , <80" ** 1- 45in/
15 lbs
>20kg/44 lbs within Asia subject to fees Normal excess baggage charges   Box required.  Web site says sporting gear is free.
China Air 917-368-2000  www.china-airlines.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each   fee for more than 20kg/44 lbs & oversize  luggage Fees for overweight & oversize  

Beijing tel: 86-010-6601-6667

Airline U.S. Phone Internet URL Baggage Allowance:
To/From North America
Baggage Allowance:
Carry-on
Bicycle Tariff: Domestic/Regional Bicycle Tariff:
To/From North America
Bicycle Tariff: Tandems Minimum Packing Requirements / Special Instructions / Other Notes
Delta Airlines 800-221-1212  www.delta-air.com

//Special note on Delta's policy\\.

2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- <40 lbs $200

Including folders and S&S bikes, regardless of size and weight. See "Special Note"

$200 to Europe & 200 from Europe.
Including folders and S&S bikes. See "Special Note"
>80in must be sent as cargo. Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Check in 90-120 minutes prior to departure. Generally a leader in anti-bicycle policies.
El Al (Israel) 800-234-3525  www.elal.co.il 1 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 39in $35 $210 Same regulations apply. Box required.
Emerates   www.emirates.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1   1% of applicable fare / kg excess   Excess fees are often based on 1st class fare!
Ethiopian 212-867-0095  www.flyethiopian.com/  1- 44lbs 1   Free *   Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
EVA (Taiwan, ROC) 201-547-3000  www.evaair.com.tw/ 2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1- 45in/
15lbs
Asia: 1% of 1st class fare/kg excess Free * Same regulations apply. Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Finnair 800-950-5000  www.us.finnair.com 1- 62" / 50 lbs,
1- 55" / 50 lbs **
1- 45in/
22lbs
Free * Free * $80-$110 Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Box recommended
Frontier Airlines 800-432-1359  www.frontierairlines.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45in $20 if <50 lbx. $20 if <50 lbs >109 in must be sent as cargo. Box required.
Hawaiian Airlines 800-367-5320  www.hawaiianair.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1 $35 between islands, $100 to/from mainland, plus $25 if  >50 lbs     Box required. 
Iberian Air 800-772-4642  www.iberia.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" and <55" 1- 22lbs Weight system: over 20kg/44 lbs is 150  150 Same regulations apply. Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Box required.
Airline U.S. Phone Internet URL Baggage Allowance:
To/From North America
Baggage Allowance:
Carry-on
Bicycle Tariff: Domestic/Regional Bicycle Tariff:
To/From North America
Bicycle Tariff: Tandems Minimum Packing Requirements / Special Instructions / Other Notes
Icelandic Air 800-223-5500  www.icelandair.is 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45in/
11lbs
~$35 for flights within Iceland and to Europe $60-$70   Box or bag required. $30 Iceland to and from Europe
Japan Air 800-525-3663  www.jal.co.jp/ 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45in   $130   Box required.
Jet Blue   www.jetblue.com     $50 $80   Box required.
KLM 800-447-4747  www.klm.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1 >20kg/44 lbs
20-80
Free *
Otherwise -
Overweight €150 / $200
Does not accept tandems Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Korean Air 800-438-5000  www.koreanair.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1   Overweight:  $50 to/from N. America and 1.5% of adult one-way normal fare per 1kg for other destinations.   Box required.
Lufthansa 800-399-5838  www.lufthansa.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 18lbs $100-$200 $250   Box or bag required.
Olympic Airways 800-223-1226  www.olympic-airways.gr/  2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1 Europe: 1% of applicable fare/kg excess Free *   Box required.
P.I.A 800-221-2552  www.piac.com.pk  1- 62" / 50 lbs,
1- 55" / 50 lbs
1       Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Qantas 800-227-4500  www.qantas.com 2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1- 45in/
11lbs
AU$10 Free *   Box required.
S.A.S. (Scandanavia) 800-221-2350  www.scandinavian.net 1- 62" / 50 lbs each 1- 46in/
18lbs
Free * Free * (Star Alliance member) $135 Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Confirm space for bicycle with ticket reservation.
Airline U.S. Phone Internet URL Baggage Allowance:
To/From North America
Baggage Allowance:
Carry-on
Bicycle Tariff: Domestic/Regional Bicycle Tariff:
To/From North America
Bicycle Tariff: Tandems Minimum Packing Requirements / Special Instructions / Other Notes
SAA (South African) 800-722-9675  www.flysaa.com/ 2- 62" / 50 lbs each 1- 45in/
20lbs
Allow 20kg extra, w/ conditions, see "sporting equip." Allow 20kg extra, w/ conditions   Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Singapore Airlines 800-742-3333  www.singaporeair.com 1- 62" / 50 lbs,
1- 55" / 50 lbs **
1- 45in/
15lbs
Asia: 1% of 1st class fare/kg excess Free * (Star Alliance member)   Box required.
Southwest Air 800-435-9792  www.iflyswa.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1 $50 n/a   Box required.
Swiss 877-359-7947  www.swiss.com 1- 62" / 50 lbs
1- 55" / 50 lbs
1 $100-$200 $250   Box or bag required.
T.A.P. (Portugal) 800-221-7370  www.flytap.com 1- 62" / 50 lbs,
1- 55" / 50 lbs **
1 € 35 € 150   Box required.
Thai Airways 800-426-5204  www.thaiair.com 2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1   Free * (Star Alliance member)   Box required. Confirm space for bicycle with ticket reservation.
United Airlines 800-241-6522  www.ual.com 1st bags - <50 lbs, <62"
2nd bag - $70
1- 45in/
15lbs
$100  $200   Handlebars turned, pedals removed. Sign limited liability release.
USAir 800-428-4322  www.usairways.com 2 bags - <50 lbs, <62" each 1- 45in/
40lbs
$100 $100   Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Vanguard 800-826-4827  www.flyvanguard.com  2- 62" / 50 lbs each 1 $25 (based on email for Consumer Affairs.  Website indicates $50.) U.S. domestic only   Boxed or handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Varig (Brazil) 800-468-2744  www.varig.com.br 2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1- 10lbs   Free * (Star Alliance member)   Handlebars turned, pedals removed.
Virgin Atlantic Air 800-862-8621  www.virgin-atlantic.com 2- 62" / 50 lbs each ** 1- 11lbs   Free *   Box required.
Airline U.S. Phone Internet URL Baggage Allowance:
To/From North America
Baggage Allowance:
Carry-on
Bicycle Tariff: Domestic/Regional Bicycle Tariff:
To/From North America
Bicycle Tariff: Tandems Minimum Packing Requirements / Special Instructions / Other Notes

 

 
 

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