Anyone Have Experience Bringing Bike on an Airplane?

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Anonymous's picture


I'm needing advice on the best way to take a bike on an airplane for overseas.

Anyone know of how to procure a cheap/free bike box or bag?

Do they automatically consider it extra baggage?

Anyone had any experience, good or bad, that they wish to recount?


Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
It depends who you fly with

If you are going overseas and, in particular Europe, a lot of the transatlantic carriers do not consider a bike bag or box as extgra luggage and will not charge for it. Assuming you are flying economy/coach, it will be regarded as one of your two permissable check-in bags.

The following I know of, on transatlantic routes, do not charge to carry bikes:

British Airways
Virgin Atlantic
Air France
Aer Lingus
American Airlines

I believe American Airlines does charge for bikes on domestic routes, but not on international.

United Airlines was charging last year on international routes, presumably because they are desperate for the cash.

I have personal experience with both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, having crossed the pond several times with bikes in both directions, and it's been a pleasure each time. On one occasion, I was bringing two bikes back from London with Virgin, and expecting to pay esxcess luggage and, because the flight was full, I ended up being upgraded to Upper Class. They waived my excess baggage (I had plenty of it, aprt from the bikes). From JFK they threw in a stretched limo, which had all my luggage, plus a bike in a bike box and another bike in a bike bag, occupying the full length of this tacky vehicle, and the driver even helped me get it all up to my apartment, for which I gave him a new $20 bill.

The only thing you need to look out for is that Virgin Atlantic makes you sign a form that limits their liability to around $1,500. If you have a valuable road bike, you should consider extra insurance.

If you value your bike, use a hard bike box. If you intend to travel overseas or by plane regularly with your bike, it is worth investing in the $300 or so that the boxes cost.

If you look in the archive, you will also find several other threads on the subject, which you may find worth reading.

Anonymous's picture
Basil (not verified)
Bikes on Planes - Reference

"A seemingly very comprehensive list of most airline rules re carrying bikes on board.

Anonymous's picture
bikesherpa (not verified)

Another option is to find a bike store at your arrival destination. Then have the bike boxed at your local bike shop and ups ship it to the other bike shop and have them re-asemble it. All you do it go pick up your bike from the shop when you arrive and you're off. When you leave, you do it in reverse. It may cost a bit more but for convenience sake, it's often worth it.

Anonymous's picture
Russ Berman (not verified)
UPS will ship but customs may have its own ideas

Beware on using bike shop shipping options. I had my own horror story clearing my three-year old, obviously used Litespeed through French customs last year, and I've since heard of even worse problems (full duty or send it back to the US at your own expense and extended delay) inolving shipment to Canada, of all places. There may be an easy way to do it, but you can't simply trust a local bike shop, UPS or whomever to know what's necessary. And it ain't cheap, either. Shipping to a bike shop as opposed to a personal address may alleviate or even avoid the customs difficulty, but you'd better be sure before you try. I was happy to pay the $80 to take my bike back with me to the US on Delta but sorry to have blown 4 days I could better have spent pedaling in the Alpes Maritimes.

Anonymous's picture
Cheryl (not verified)
Bringing a bike on an airline

I just brought my bike on Continental on an international flight. They charged me $80 each way, but the woman at the desk suggested that if someone persuasive called ahead of time, they may be able to get the fee waived. Also, I borrowed a bike box by posting my request on this message board - I had many generous offers...which shows how wonderful the NYCC members truly are.

Good luck.

Anonymous's picture
RonboDDS (not verified)
Bikes and Continental

What about Continental to Europe (Geneva specifically), does anyone have experience with them?


Anonymous's picture
Peter Storey (not verified)
George Farnsworth's site

You might also want to spend some time looking around on, a public service site maintained by George Farnsworth (whoever he might be) as a clearinghouse for info on bike travel/transport logistics.

Peter Storey

Anonymous's picture
RonboDDS (not verified)
Continental Airlines Charges for Bikes

Well, I called a reservations agent at Continental for my upcoming Europe trip to ask about bike policy. They are ready, willing and able to CHARGE $80 each way for a boxed bike.

I will ring up as many times as it takes for me to get a sympathetic ear to get the charges waived. Those $160 spent would have instead paid for a nice set of (fill in the blank).

For the rest of you, hope this info is useful - stick to the European carriers for your next trip - so far most of them don't extort the way sucky CONTINENTAL does!

Ronald Birnbaum

Anonymous's picture
MP (not verified)
Continental to Geneva

I flew Continental to Geneva last summer for a Graham Baxter cycling tour. I was told on the phone that I'd have to pay $80 each way. I did pay it leaving Newark, but the ticket clerks in Geneva let me take it for free. Smile and try a little French; it might work.

Anonymous's picture
Frank Grazioli (not verified)
Continental: you get to talk to someone to pay!

So I just got off the phone with a quite sympathetic CSR, Giovanni, because I too was perplexed by the mystery policy stated on their website. So apparently, after Giovanni checked with his supervisor, all international flights incur the $80 each-way charge irrespective of number of checked bags. But, wait, there's good news: you will not be charged any more for such being oversize or overweight. He was a pleasant CSR though. Worth $160.

Continental partners with Alitalia (who charges now I think--maybe their last ditch effort in the face of going belly up--or like Berlusconi, the Italians are just picking up the bad habits of Americans)--Alitalia has old equipment, bad uniforms, and even worse food (and a pathetic ad campaign that is so . . . not magnetic)--at least they used to honor the bike travelers with no charges.

Singhiozzo. Sospiro.

Domestic including Alaska and Hawaii
Continental Airlines accepts a non-motorized touring or racing bicycle with single seat as checked baggage. A bicycle is not included in a customer's free baggage allowance and is subject to a $80.00 service charge (each way).

The following are bicycle restrictions:

Handlebars must be fixed sideways and pedals removed or
All loose items must be enclosed in plastic foam or similar protective material or
Bicycle should be transported in a sealed box. If a box is needed, see the container section of this site.
The service charge is in addition to any excess baggage charges that may apply.
For International bicycle information, contact Continental Airlines Reservations at 1-800-525-0280.

Anonymous's picture
Brad Ensminger (not verified)
Alitalia Bike Policy

I just called Alitalia about bringing my bike with me to Italy.
They said I could bring my bike as one of my check-in luggages, at no extra charge, as long as the case is not longer than 52 inches.

Alitalia requires advance notice of bringing the bike.
They do not insure the package for more than $150.

I've never done this before, so I may have another story when I come back.

Best of luck on your venture.

Buon viaggio,

Anonymous's picture
el jefe (not verified)

"Unless you have a folding bike, the box/case will be bigger than 52 inches.

Everyone should always confirm what the maximum allowable dimensions are (length + width + height). Exceed the maximum and your bike may go as cargo and not travel on the same flight as you.

While they all differ slightly, almost all of the major airlines have very fair rules now regarding travel with oversized sporting goods, whether it be a surfboard, scuba gear or a bike. Their published rules all require payment. No one gets away free anymore. You may get lucky at check-in and they may not charge you. If you're a frequent flyer and have an Elite level membership, they'll often waive the fee.

The only sure way around the fee is to use a folding bike. Most of them will fit in a case small enough that there will be no charge. The ""Air Friday"" packs so small that it can be carried on in the cabin.

One last warning -- if you are travelling during the summer or between mid-November and early January, confirm with you carrier that they will accept any oversized luggage. It's usually only a problem to the Caribbean and Central and South America, but it's certainly worth checking beforehand.

el jefe, whose bikes have flown on well over 100 flights"

Anonymous's picture
Lynn (not verified)
flying with a bike

I can't help sticking my $0.02 in here. I have a BikeFriday and it has eased my air travels.

While there is no BikeFriday that fits in your carry-on, mine travels nicely in a regulation-size, hard-sided suitcase. The agent guys may open the luggage, and for that reason I put in a friendly note that says what all those strange metal pieces actually are, and also warns that it is hard to repack - in the hopes of discouraging a really ambitious agent from taking the bike out of the case. I don't know if it's the note, but I have had no problems, even when it is evident the suitcase has been opened.

I have travelled incident free several times, carrying a nice-riding bike -- for free, and can't recommend the folding bike option enough for anyone who expects to fly a lot - especially in these post-9/11 and security-crazed times. And I don't even work for BikeFriday.

Just my $0.02.

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
If you're going to Geneva

If you are going to Geneva and want to avoid having to pay to take a bike in a box, do not fly with Continental. I suggest you fly with either British Airways via London or Air France via Paris and get an onward connecting flight with the same airline to Geneva, or any other European city. You do not have to reclaim you baggage and clear it through customs in either London or Paris, it will be checked through to its final destination. And, you do not clear customs yourself until final destination. In fact, you will not have the option of reclaiming your bags until final destination, unless you refuse to board the connecting flight, in which case the airlie will remove your bags.

Remeber BA and Air France do not charge for carrying bikes. Check out the fares, because both are offering great deals right now, especially BA. And, remember, from London, you can fly to more European cities than from any other European gateway. With BA and Air France you can go from either JFK or Newark and, in London, use either Heathrow or Gatwick, whichever suits you best.

Virgin Atlantic is also a possibility, as you can get a connecting flight from London with its partner airline, British Midland, which also does not charge for bikes. Virgin also goes from either JFK or Newark and goes to both Heathrow and Gatwick.

Insofar as a bike box is concerned, on British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air France, while it is counted as one of your two pieces of check-in baggage, it is regarded as outsize luggage, as it is too big and/or delicate to go on a luggage carousel. You will not be charged for it. It will not fly as cargo and will accompany you on the same flight.

If you want a direct flight, I suggest you check out American Airlines or Swiss. I'm not sure whether the latter charges for bikes. American only charges on domestic routes.

Another tip: check-in four hours hours prior to the stated departure time. You may be asked to accompany the bike to the X-Ray machine and you need to be prepared to unpack it for inspection and be able to repack it again, you still then have to go through security and passport control yourself. I have once been asked to accompany a bike box at Heathrow to the X-Ray machine, because they were concerned it was going to be too big to go through the machine. As it turned out, it was not and I didn't have to unpack it.

Anonymous's picture
David Schlichting (not verified)
Bike on Plane

I work for Swiss International Air Lines, doing business analysis at our offices on Long Island.
We also have a nonstop flight ot Geneva and will give you these thoughts.
Though the government mandated inspection of all checked baggage, the methodogy varies depending on the airport. We fly from Terminal 4 at JFK and there the luggage to be checked is inspected in front of the checkin counters. According to our airport people, the screeners MAY NOT NECESSARILY open your box. They may do one of those swipe tests where they wipe your box with a cloth and stick it in an explosives sniffer. Or they may open it. Anyone's guess. In any case, they are not supposed to allow you to touch the bag after inspection, so if any resealing of an open box occurs you may be forced to cheer from the sidelines --but at least you can see what's happening.

There is a Swiss Rail station at Geneva Airport. There is a left luggage office there. When you exit customs, go straight out the doors to the outside of the building. Turn left, walk 50-100 feet and you should see the signs for the train station right in front on you. Walk into the mezzanine of this building and you will see escalators in front of you and the rail ticket office down below on your right. Don't use the escalator, but take a hard right about 50 feet and you will see some elevators, so you can roll the bike and all the other stuff right on. When you get back near the ticket office, walk a bit farther and you will see the left luggage office. When I was last in Zürich in NOV, it was CHF7/day for storage, so it's at least that much.

I have not flown with the bike out of GVA for a few years, but I can warn you that at all the Swiss airports, there is now a mandaotry rule that any peice of check baggage cannot exceed 70 pounds. No waivers; they will force you to pull stuff out and repack so be warned when you set up that bike box.

Anonymous's picture
David Schlichting (not verified)
More Bike on Plane

"Forgot a more important issue. It is not general practice for us to charge excess baggage on flights from the USA. However, you can pretty much bank that we will nail you for CHF150 excess baggage charge for the bike when flying out of Switzerland. (BTW all those airline employee travel benefits you hear about DO NOT include waiver of excess baggage!)
It does not really matter what some res agt told you here. In many cases, the check in is done by a handling agent who is contracted with the airline and has strict set of rule of what to do and what not to do. In addition, that handling agent's contract with the airline undoubtedly contains a commission system for not only your basic ticket sales, but also excess baggage, ticket change fees, etc.

Further, a handling agent cannot ""look into the computer"" to see what the res agent told you. They run on a check in software that basically only contains the name, seat number assigned, connecting flight information, etc --the data needed to issue your boarding pass and check you and your baggage onto the next flight.

Of course, every carrier's policy is different. Print out the rules from web site and ask for the station manager if what happens at checkin does not agree with what you've got printed out.

Anonymous's picture
RonboDDS (not verified)
Swiss International Airlines

Gee, that's really interesting stuff about the contracted check-in agents in Geneva. I find it outrageous that they should earn a commission, of all things, for baggage fees as you mentioned.

It's too bad, since Swiss had been/still is in economic difficulties, that they should potentially mistreat customers with such a system.

It would be interesting to know if all the airlines operate this way over there.


Anonymous's picture
David Schlichting (not verified)
Bike on Plane

It's unfortunate that the only thing one can take from an explanation of these processes is that somehow the consumer is getting mistreated. A ticket office is a sales location like any travel agency, thus a commission program is in line with any other selling activity. I cannot for speak for what is done in the US domestic market, but I know it is not uncommon that some incentive program exists at airports. This has existed in Europe for many years, well before the financial disaster brought on by 9/11.

When the public is willing to pay higher air fares then the airline industry can afford to, among other things, hire check in staff at wages greater than $8-9 per hour or keep extra baggage handlers on staff to handle our bikes for free.

Normal sized baggage at most major airports is processed on an automated system. As much as I don't like it, the reality is that outsized items like our bike boxes are handled manually outside the system and someone has to pay that gorilla to handle it. This is no different than selling food on board an aircraft: it's up to the consumer to decide what services are desired and pay for them.

cycling trips