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Flying with a bike.

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Flying with a bike.

Old 01-09-19, 12:30 PM
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When I was in Milan, I was told by the gate agent the fee for the bike case would be 125 Euro, I should have only paid $75 US at the time maybe 60 Euro or so. I asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor came over and I explained my issue. She looked at my bike case and asked "Is this yours"? Yes. Looked at my clothes bag and asked, "Is this yours"? Yes. She then said if you can get everything in the small bag into the case everything goes for free. So there I am tearing all of my dirty clothes out of my other bag trying to stuff them into my bikes case right in the middle of the MXP airport.

Both the gate agent and the supervisor was wrong. But in the second case it worked to my favor and I wasn't complaining.
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Old 01-09-19, 06:34 PM
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We have made several trips with our bikes recently - both international and domestic. We have the Orucase Airport Ninja where you take the wheels, fork, seat and bars off. The case is just inches over the airline’s spec. So far, with Delta and KLM we have not been charged. Delta and KLM both want $150 each way. In point of fact, no baggage agent has even looked twice at the cases.

When we have departed from the states, we checked the cases in at curbside checkin and tipped about $20. We then made arrangements to leave our cases at a hotel while we travel.

I don’t think airlines are overly concerned about baggage size as much as they are about weight. Weight = expense for them in terms of fuel and in terms of worker’s comp costs due to injuries. Our cases, when packed, weigh in at about 35lbs - well under the 50lb interntional limit and half of the domestic limit (airline elite program) of 70lb.

The Orucase Aiport Ninja is one of the lightest cases around and the protection is solid. The case weighs about 12lbs and when we add in our bikes, the total comes to about 35lbs. They work great and I’d highly recommend them.

I’m retired now, but I’ve traveled a lot for business both internationally and domestic (million miler etc...). Here are some hints for making this all work:
1. The airline bike regulations are all over the map. For example, Delta doesn’t care if it’s a bike if it fits in their normal airline luggage spec. KLM, on the other hand, wants to charge you for a bike no matter what it’s in. Delta will charge you if it’s a bike and it is not in the normal baggage size of 62 linear inches. When asked what is in your case, just reply “sports equipment.” No baggage agent wants to get in a fight - they’re regular people like you (other than the occasional crank) and they really don’t want the fight either.

2. Keep the whole thing low key and pleasant and presumptive - like you have done this before and no one cares. This also means don’t show up at check in looking like you’re a cyclist. Keep the helmets on the down low, don’t dress like you are a cyclist and just avoid anything that says “bike.”

3. Tip the curbside checkin people well. They will take care of you and your bike and make it all go well for you.

4. Keep your bike case light. Weight is more important to the airlines than size. If you have to pack other stuff along, use another duffel bag or something. The cost for that additional bag is a lot less than the cost for transporting a bike in most cases. Also, if you have one of the airlines credit cards, they almost always give you an additional bag for free.

5. If you are traveling in a group, and one of the group has some sort of airline frequent flyer status, have them make all the reservations and pay for the tickets. Usually their status is then transferred to all the tickets in their traveling party on their record in the computer. Elite status gets additional bags and additional leeway compared to regular travelers. With Delta, this works for up to 8 traveling companions. We’ve done this many times on both ski and bike trips where there is a lot of extra and oversize luggage.

6. Know the airlines specific regulations with respect to baggage and bikes. Have a copy with you if need be.

With the Orucase, after getting good at it by doing it several times, we can assemble our two bikes in less than an hour total and closer to 45 minutes. The cases are very easy to get through the airport and they are - based on experience - easy at getting through the airlines. They go through the normal baggage handling and work great.

We have not paid an additional baggage fee for our bikes yet.

Last edited by JohnJ80; 01-09-19 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 01-10-19, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by schoolboy2 View Post
We're planning to fly with our bikes from Copenhagen to Paris this August. The two airlines who have non-stop flights which work for our schedule are Air France and SAS-Ireland. Both require that we contact the airline at least 48 hours in advance to confirm that there will be space for bike boxes. This is concerning as we don't know what we'll do if there isn't room for the bike boxes!

Has anyone else here had experience with this new requirement?
Okay...here is my related experience. Bear in mind I was flying Lufthansa and not the airlines you mentioned.
In September 2017 I toured from Dresden to Budapest. All of my flights were on Lufthansa operated aircraft. I THINK, but cannot recall for certain, that I booked through Lufthansa's USA website. Similar to what you said, there was a requirement on the website's sports equipment page that I contact Lufthansa customer service prior to my flight. I contacted as soon as I saw this, and did not wait until shortly before my flight.
This is what the customer service rep told me:
  • The purpose of calling customer service in advance is because they wanted to reserve space for the bike. I was told Lufthansa aircraft are equipped with on-board racks for securing bicycles. I was also told that since all of my flights were on Lufthansa operated aircraft, I was NOT to box the bike. She also said that nonboxing would NOT be available if I was using a code share partner airline on any part of my itinerary. She said that the airline would accept a boxed bike if I wanted to do that, but it was preferred they not be boxed since it is easier and more efficient for the baggage handlers to roll the bike around than to have to move heavy, bulky boxes. She did not say this, but I gathered any bikes exceeding available rack space would have to be boxed. The customer service agent reserved rack space for the unboxed bike on all of my flights. For the record, when I was changing planes in Munich, I was able to see inside the hold of the connecting Dresden bound flight and could see my bike secured on the wall in the aircraft hold. I thought that was really cool.
  • The agent asked if I was checking any other baggage, which I responded no as all my other gear is in a carry-on duffel. She then said that since the bicycle was the only checked baggage, the bicycle fee would be waived. Naturally I got her name and noted the time and date of my call.
Now the cautionary part. Having a fair deal of experience flying with a bike, I know the ultimate call is made at the departure airport. Three days before my flight, I went to the airport and waited for the Lufthansa agents to process all passengers for that day's flight. There is only one Lufthansa flight a day from my local airport, so I let them process that flight's passengers before interrupting their time to answer my questions. Once they were available, I asked them about the same information I had received from Lufthansa customer service. They knew nothing about it and said there would be a fee and the bike would have to be boxed. Eventually, they called over a manager (the only one with a German accent), and she confirmed the customer service rep's statements, though it seemed she did so reluctantly. Later that day, I called Lufthansa customer service again and told them there seemed to be a little confusion at the airport regarding the boxing and fee requirement. (I did this because the German accented manager told me she would not be working on the day of my flight, and I was concerned that day's manager may not know the policy.) Customer service was quite adamant they did not want the bike boxed, so I felt a little uncomfortable as to how things may play out on the day of my flight. Ultimately, I arrived at the airport early with an unboxed bike, but my wife waited at a cell phone lot in our car with a box should I need it. As luck would have it, the German gate agent's schedule changed and she was there, remembered me, and all I had to do was let the air out of the tires.

Now after all of that long story, my point is that the purpose of calling the airlines may be a similar situation where they want to ensure bicycle space is available. I recommend calling asap. However, get the name, contact information and time/date of your call to customer service as you may need it when you check in for your flights.

Now, as I say to anyone flying with their bikes.......good luck. You may need it.
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Old 01-10-19, 11:52 AM
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Thanks REDBAGSRAMBLER for the insight. I'll be calling the airlines shortly.

JOHNJ80 mentioned his experience with the Airport Ninja bike case and that has piqued my interest as well. At $500 each, they aren't cheap, but considering that I'll pay bike fees to United Airlines ($400 roundtrip to Paris) plus $150 to Air France (for a two hour hop from Copenhagen back to Paris), I'd end up $50 ahead if I choose to use Airport Ninja. Hmmm....
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Old 01-10-19, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by schoolboy2 View Post
Thanks REDBAGSRAMBLER for the insight. I'll be calling the airlines shortly.

JOHNJ80 mentioned his experience with the Airport Ninja bike case and that has piqued my interest as well. At $500 each, they aren't cheap, but considering that I'll pay bike fees to United Airlines ($400 roundtrip to Paris) plus $150 to Air France (for a two hour hop from Copenhagen back to Paris), I'd end up $50 ahead if I choose to use Airport Ninja. Hmmm....
And youd be money ahead the next time you traveled with your bike. If you keep your eye open, they sometimes have sales. They also rent the cases too. The other part of this is that because the case is so compact, its easy to wrangle into cabs or through the airport.

The downside is that you have to be comfortable with some disassembly of your bike.

PM me if you have any questions. Be glad to go through it with you.

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