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Bikes on Airlines

Experiences with Bicycles and Airlines

As they say in the classics, Your mileage may vary. Here is a summary of my experiences with taking bicycles on airlines, both within and outside Australia.

In general I've found that officially, all the airlines will insist that a bike is boxed. Bikes also count as oversize and fragile items, so if they choose, they can decide not to carry it, and if they damage it, in theory its your fault not theirs.

In practice the staff seem to make the rules up on the spot, and anything you are told will apply only to the person who tells it to you. Rules change arbitrarily with the airlines "code-sharing" routes, you can be quoted one set of rules by one airline, then turn up to find that you're flying on a different one … I generally box my bike, arrive in plenty of time, and smile a lot … it generally works.

Air New Zealand

January 2002; Probably the friendliest airline I've ever flown with respect to carrying a bike. A phone enquiry when I booked the ticket told me that bikes must be boxed, so I did. No charges.

Ansett

Irrelevant really, Ansett went bust in 2001.

In Theory…

The following was quoted over the phone to me from a document that they would not name and could not provide me with a copy of!:

  • Handlebars and pedals must be turned inwards, or removed.
  • Front wheel must be removed and strapped to the bike.
  • Tyres do not have to be let down.
  • Bikes count as two pieces of excess luggage, and if you are charged will cost AUD20 per flight. However, you may not be charged if you have only one other piece of luggage (at the airlines discretion).

…In Practice

Various times that I've flown with my bike on Ansett:

  • Launceston-Melbourne: no charge, bike in box, not required to sign disclaimer.
  • Melbourne-Hobart: no charge, bike in box, required to sign the disclaimer saying it was insufficiently protected.
  • Canberra: Since I had only one other bag, no AUD20 charge, required to remove pedals and front wheel, wrap the chain, turn the handlebars.
  • Melbourne: Bicycle was not loaded at airport due to mistake by baggage crew, Ansett brought it up and delivered it via taxi to my work within 2hrs.
  • Melbourne: Both my girlfriend and myself were required to let the tyres down.
  • Sydney: Both my girlfriend and myself were required to sign a declaration that the bikes were "insufficiently protected" and thus the airline took no responsibility for damage.

Qantas

Insisted that the bike be in a box. If you don't have a bike box, Qantas will sell you one for AUD20, or AUD10 (they never seem to know which). A warning though, different airports stock varying numbers of boxes, it's probably advisable to call ahead to find if one is available.

Travelling internationally in 2001 I found I had to walk from the international to the domestic terminal to pick up the box, and due to their confusion was not charged for it.

March 2002; for the first time ever I was charged AUD11 to take my bike from Melbourne to Sydney. This was quoted as a Mandatory Charge (plus 10% GST), however it was not repeated when we flew back a week later.

Lufthansa

November 1998:

When I came to fly from Heathrow to Sydney I was told that on the leg from Frankfurt to Singapore there would be a AUD70 charge! This was despite there being no mention of charges when I had booked the ticket and asked specifically, nor was there any charge eight weeks earlier when I flew the same leg in the opposite direction. After a bit of discussion this was waived as "I had not previously been informed".

At Frankfurt airport I got to watch through the window as a member of the ground crew picked up my bike box, threw it onto the luggage trolley, then kick it back when it fell off towards him! Arriving home I found that the front brakes required complete dissasembly to realign and reattach them.

Phillipine Airlines

Sometime circa 1994

I never took my bike with Phillipine Airlines. When I initially purchased a ticket for travel from Australia to the UK I asked and was told that it was ok and the bike would count as one of two allowable pieces of luggage. A day or so before I travelled I called the airline directly and was told that it might be a normal piece of luggage, or they might decide to charge it entirely as excess luggage, at a AUD60 per kilogram charge — approximately AUD600AUD900 each direction!

After my general experiences with that airline I would probably never choose to travel with them again, they no longer service the Australian market and may be out of business entirely.