Tips for Flying with Bikes

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Tips for Flying with Bikes
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Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 6:09 Quote
Looking for any tips from anyone who frequently flies with their bike. Are there certain airlines that are better equipped for this than others? Anyone have a preferred airline when flying their bike?

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 7:46 Quote
Generally none are very good. Within Canada WestJet used to be the best, but my last couple of experiences with them haven't been the best. I've also flown Air Canada, Delta and American.

- Get a good bike bag/case with handles and wheels that makes it easier for the handlers to move it around, so they're not throwing it around as much.
- Pack the bike well, lots of padding protecting things. Expect your bike bag to be thrown around by careless handlers.
- Expect to pay fees. Many airlines (Delta and American) have recently waived fees for bikes, however you still have to pay oversized/weight fees. In my experience fees are anywhere from $50 to $150 each way. Sometimes you get lucky and there are no fees (used to be my experience with WestJet), but lately they all seem to charge fees.
- Get to the airport for check in much earlier than you normally would for flights without bikes. You're going to spend some time in the oversized luggage drop off pulling everything in your bike bag apart so they can inspect everything, then you have to pack it all up again. It's stressful doing this if you're in a rush to catch your flight.
- And lastly, and this is a hard one to do sometimes, once you've boarded the plane see if there's any way you can look out the window while they're loading the baggage to ensure your bikes get on the plane. I've arrived at my destination before and have been told there was no room for my bikes so they were left behind to be sent on a later flight (this is bullshit, the handlers that day just didn't feel like loading heavy bikes). This was Air Canada. My last flight with WestJet I made sure to watch them and saw them load all bags except my bikes, so they were going to be left again. Spoke to the flight crew and told them we are not leaving until those bikes get loaded. She got on the phone and within minutes the cart came back and they loaded the bikes. Incredible!

Good luck!

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 7:55 Quote
freerider11 wrote:
Generally none are very good. Within Canada WestJet used to be the best, but my last couple of experiences with them haven't been the best. I've also flown Air Canada, Delta and American.

- Get a good bike bag/case with handles and wheels that makes it easier for the handlers to move it around, so they're not throwing it around as much.
- Pack the bike well, lots of padding protecting things. Expect your bike bag to be thrown around by careless handlers.
- Expect to pay fees. Many airlines (Delta and American) have recently waived fees for bikes, however you still have to pay oversized/weight fees. In my experience fees are anywhere from $50 to $150 each way. Sometimes you get lucky and there are no fees (used to be my experience with WestJet), but lately they all seem to charge fees.
- Get to the airport for check in much earlier than you normally would for flights without bikes. You're going to spend some time in the oversized luggage drop off pulling everything in your bike bag apart so they can inspect everything, then you have to pack it all up again. It's stressful doing this if you're in a rush to catch your flight.
- And lastly, and this is a hard one to do sometimes, once you've boarded the plane see if there's any way you can look out the window while they're loading the baggage to ensure your bikes get on the plane. I've arrived at my destination before and have been told there was no room for my bikes so they were left behind to be sent on a later flight (this is bullshit, the handlers that day just didn't feel like loading heavy bikes). This was Air Canada. My last flight with WestJet I made sure to watch them and saw them load all bags except my bikes, so they were going to be left again. Spoke to the flight crew and told them we are not leaving until those bikes get loaded. She got on the phone and within minutes the cart came back and they loaded the bikes. Incredible!

Good luck!

Thanks for cold hard truth haha. Just trying to weigh all options here for a potential trip to BC from the states. Seems like such a pain/wallet drain to fly the bike but then again a rental is just not the same as having your own bike with you.

Your point about the bike not making the flight is one of my biggest concerns as the destination is going to be a solid drive from the city I want to fly into so I do not anticipate having time to wait around for the bike to catch another flight.

Appreciate the info all the same.

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 8:15 Quote
Yes, it can be expensive to take you're own bike. But if you rent, you gotta figure $125-200 per day (CAD$). So a couple hundred in fees doesn't seem like much anymore. And you can get lucky and not be charged as well.

I've flown alot with bikes, and that one time was the only time it was left behind, and last time would have been the second time if I didn't catch them. That's why I say make it as easy as possible for them to move it around, so they're less likely to say f*ck it and just leave it without loading.

Seems to be luck of the draw if you'll have a good experience or a bad one. You don't know what you're going to get unfortunately.

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 10:12 Quote
Spirit, Southwest and Frontier bike fee is $70-75 each way. A LOT cheaper than Delta or American Airline's "No Bike Fee" fee.

Also, the aforementioned 3 has a higher weight limit (100lbs) than the latter two (50lbs). So, don't fall for the "no bike fee" marketing unless your bike baggage is really under 50lbs.

I've flown all the the cheaper 3 and crammed my bike box with my clothes, which was used as padding and so I didn't have to bring a carry-on. Never will I fly Delta or AA with my bike again.

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 10:51 Quote
My girlfriend and I have flown with our bikes three times in the past six months, twice within the US (both on American) and once from the US to BC (on Alaska). Here are a few key points from our experience:

-We have experienced a wide variety of charges for checking the two bikes, from $0-$140 USD one way. I believe the charge heavily depends on the individual employee checking your bags in at the ticket counter. I have American gold status, which includes one free checked bag for me and any companions, so this may have contributed to some of the lower pricing. When the total comes out to less than what the maximum total price listed on the baggage policy could be, I don't ask questions.

-Our bikes have only been weighed once, and never measured with a tape. When the bikes were weighed, they were about 52 lbs and the ticketing employee looked the other way in regard to the overweight charge after we removed the pedals from the bags and got them down to 51 lbs. My friend just visited us with his bike and was charged $130 on the way here and only $30 on the return flight; his bike with bag was well over 50 lbs. Both flights were on the same airline, giving further evidence that the charge depends on the ticketing employee.

-Our bikes have never been damaged, except for some small holes in the bags and one disc rotor was bent once. Although the instructions that come with our bike bags do not say the rotors need to be removed, I now remove the rotors when packing the bikes. This is probably overkill, but I like to know I will not have to spend time truing rotors during valuable vacation time.

-I also check a duffle bag that contains things like tools, helmet, floor pump, cable & padlock, shoes, ratchet straps for strapping the packed bikes down in a rental truck bed, and tailgate straps for transporting the assembled bikes. I use tailgate straps that each hold a single bike for when we travel and rent a truck, these pack better than a full tailgate pad. Checking an extra bag is a good way to make sure you have any items that would not be allowed in carry on (some tools) on your trip.

-Every time we have flown with bikes TSA has placed a note in the bag stating that it has been inspected. Assume TSA will do a hand inspection of your bag and pack accordingly.

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 12:17 Quote
crj5 wrote:
My girlfriend and I have flown with our bikes three times in the past six months, twice within the US (both on American) and once from the US to BC (on Alaska). Here are a few key points from our experience:

-We have experienced a wide variety of charges for checking the two bikes, from $0-$140 USD one way. I believe the charge heavily depends on the individual employee checking your bags in at the ticket counter. I have American gold status, which includes one free checked bag for me and any companions, so this may have contributed to some of the lower pricing. When the total comes out to less than what the maximum total price listed on the baggage policy could be, I don't ask questions.

-Our bikes have only been weighed once, and never measured with a tape. When the bikes were weighed, they were about 52 lbs and the ticketing employee looked the other way in regard to the overweight charge after we removed the pedals from the bags and got them down to 51 lbs. My friend just visited us with his bike and was charged $130 on the way here and only $30 on the return flight; his bike with bag was well over 50 lbs. Both flights were on the same airline, giving further evidence that the charge depends on the ticketing employee.

-Our bikes have never been damaged, except for some small holes in the bags and one disc rotor was bent once. Although the instructions that come with our bike bags do not say the rotors need to be removed, I now remove the rotors when packing the bikes. This is probably overkill, but I like to know I will not have to spend time truing rotors during valuable vacation time.

-I also check a duffle bag that contains things like tools, helmet, floor pump, cable & padlock, shoes, ratchet straps for strapping the packed bikes down in a rental truck bed, and tailgate straps for transporting the assembled bikes. I use tailgate straps that each hold a single bike for when we travel and rent a truck, these pack better than a full tailgate pad. Checking an extra bag is a good way to make sure you have any items that would not be allowed in carry on (some tools) on your trip.

-Every time we have flown with bikes TSA has placed a note in the bag stating that it has been inspected. Assume TSA will do a hand inspection of your bag and pack accordingly.

Great info. Thanks!

I was curious what you meant about the tailgate straps. I am not familiar with that. Also, have a bike bag you would recommend?

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 12:59 Quote
Also curious about the tailgate straps. I usually just bring a thick blanket in the bike bag to put over the tailgate of rental trucks for the bikes. Looked into the bomber straps, but they say it doesn't work well with curved/thick tailgates of full size trucks that I rent.

For bags, I use EVOC's. Awesome bags but pricey.

Posted: Sep 17, 2019 at 13:51 Quote
Bomberstrap is the brand of tailgate strap I use, it has worked on all pickups I have rented, some big and some small. There is an XL Bomberstrap which is more expensive and supposed to be better for bigger tailgates, but I find the regular ones to work just fine.

I also use the EVOC bag. I was very lucky to find the previous model year available for half price, which was huge when buying two bags. The one from Chain Reaction looks to be of similar quality to the EVOC but much cheaper, this is probably the route I would go if I were buying now and couldn't find another lucky sale. My friend who visited used a Douchebags brand bag; it has superior protection with its internal frame but is enormous and weighs a lot, certainly putting any mountain bike over the typical 50 lb limit where overweight charges apply.

Posted: Sep 18, 2019 at 6:51 Quote
crj5 wrote:
Bomberstrap is the brand of tailgate strap I use, it has worked on all pickups I have rented, some big and some small. There is an XL Bomberstrap which is more expensive and supposed to be better for bigger tailgates, but I find the regular ones to work just fine.

Good info. I've been hesitant to pick up some bomber straps to take with me on trips because they said it wouldn't work well on new style full size trucks (f150, ram, etc.). I didn't realize they even had an XL version for this purpose. But if you say the regular works fine on these trucks, I may pick up a couple. Thanks.

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