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Anyone ever use an Amtrak bike box as checked luggage on an airline?

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Anyone ever use an Amtrak bike box as checked luggage on an airline?

Old 12-20-21, 02:27 PM
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kevmcd
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Anyone ever use an Amtrak bike box as checked luggage on an airline?

The Amtrak bicycle boxes are wonderful: inexpensive, large and rugged and readily available at the end of your tour (at least in the US in major metropolitan areas)


But can they be checked on an airline as oversize luggage - in particular on Alaska Airlines?


I dropped my wife off at the airport last week and asked this question to the gate agent at check-in and an agent down in baggage claim and I got 2 different answers and in both cases they were scrolling through their website and didn't seem very confident in their answer.


One of the ambiguous details is the maximum allowable dimension/s for oversize luggage. It must be less than 115". The baggage claim agent thought this is the maximum on any axis rather than the sum of the length, width and breadth. I find it hard to believe they would allow an oversize cube 115" on a side even if it was less than 50lbs but I didn't want to argue with them and pretend I knew more than they did.


I recently received the official dimensions of the Amtrak bike box

Bicycle Box: Size 70 in x 41 in x 8.5 in (175cm x 104cm x 22cm)


So the sum of the 3 dimensions is 119.5" which is greater than the 115" number I received from the baggage claim agent. If I am desperate I might consider cutting an Amtrak box down by 5" if it would get my bike on the plane. Outgoing flight is not so much of an issue as I think I will be able to find an acceptable box somewhere. But the return flight is unknown territory and I have grown to like the Amtrak boxes.
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Old 12-20-21, 04:27 PM
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I recently flew Alaska Airlines to Arizona and checked a bike bag as regular luggage. This I believe is a recent change in the Alaska Airlines Policy

Below is the relevant content from their baggage policy page on their website - Alaska Airline Baggage Policy


Individual sports equipment pieces

Each checked piece listed below is subject to our standard checked baggage fees and waivers. We’re glad to waive the oversize fee or overweight fee for the items listed in this section. If contents unrelated to the equipment are included, additional baggage fees may apply. Refer to our Checked baggage policy for checked piece charges and waivers.
  • Archery
  • Bicycles
  • Boogie boards
  • Bowling
  • Fishing Equipment
  • Golf Clubs
  • Hockey/Lacrosse Equipment
  • Kiteboarding Equipment
  • Pole Vaults
  • Scuba Equipment
  • Skateboards
  • Skis/Snowboard
  • Surfboards/Paddleboards
  • Windsurfing Equipment
Just noticed you are from Portland - Howdy neighbor
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Old 12-20-21, 04:54 PM
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L+W+D according to the measurement instructions.

https://www.alaskaair.com/content/tr...ers-exceptions
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Old 12-20-21, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
L+W+D according to the measurement instructions.

https://www.alaskaair.com/content/tr...ers-exceptions
"We’re glad to waive the oversize fee or overweight fee for the items listed in this section."

I don't think the dimensions apply as a bicycle is considered to be an exception as sports equipment the same as golf bags and kiteboarding equipment.
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Old 12-20-21, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by 7BikeTourist View Post
"We’re glad to waive the oversize fee or overweight fee for the items listed in this section."

I don't think the dimensions apply as a bicycle is considered to be an exception as sports equipment the same as golf bags and kiteboarding equipment.
Don’t think you are reading the various provisions together. The oversized/overweight fees are waived for a bike, but there is a 115” max limit for any piece of checked baggage. And that 115” is measured as noted. That’s how I interpret the rules. You don’t think they let someone bring as large a bike box as they want, do you?
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Old 12-20-21, 05:55 PM
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I agree that it is clear that for oversize luggage the 115" is "linear" where "linear" is defined as L + W + D. Except they also describe the example of a kayak that is ok as long as it is less than 115" long and I assume that they are not requiring W + D = 0 for the case L = 115".

I think it is safe to assume that a bicycle box with L + W + D = 115" or less is ok. But I still want to know if anyone has tried flying with an Amtrak bicycle box where L + W + D = 119.5"
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Old 12-20-21, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Don’t think you are reading the various provisions together. The oversized/overweight fees are waived for a bike, but there is a 115” max limit for any piece of checked baggage. And that 115” is measured as noted. That’s how I interpret the rules. You don’t think they let someone bring as large a bike box as they want, do you?
I can only go by my own experience flying to Tuscon from Portland and back last month.

My bike bag was both oversized and overweight, but because it was a bike and contained only items related to the bike including my tools for assembly the oversize and overweight restriction did not apply.

I was a bit skeptical but when I got to the counter there was no issue, my bike bag was checked as a regular bag and in my case at no cost.

Last edited by 7BikeTourist; 12-20-21 at 06:59 PM.
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Old 12-20-21, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by 7BikeTourist View Post
I can only go by my own experience flying to Tuscon from Portland and back last month.

My bike bag was both oversized and overweight, but because it was a bike and contained only items related to the bike including my tools for assembly the oversize and overweight restriction did not apply.

I was a bit skeptical but when I got to the counter there was no issue, my bike bag was checked as a regular bag and in my case at no cost.
But was it over 115”? Read the OP. The Amtrak bike box at issue is, which is above the maximum size allowed, regardless if there is any extra charge because it is a bike.

Again, I think your mixing up two things. Whether there is an extra charge for a bike that exceeds the normal checked baggage size/weight allowance and whether the airline will accommodate a box that exceeds its maximum size allowance.

Last edited by indyfabz; 12-20-21 at 09:39 PM.
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Old 12-20-21, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
I agree that it is clear that for oversize luggage the 115" is "linear" where "linear" is defined as L + W + D. Except they also describe the example of a kayak that is ok as long as it is less than 115" long and I assume that they are not requiring W + D = 0 for the case L = 115".

I think it is safe to assume that a bicycle box with L + W + D = 115" or less is ok. But I still want to know if anyone has tried flying with an Amtrak bicycle box where L + W + D = 119.5"
Regardless of what anyone else has gotten away with, do you want to risk an airline employee whipping out a tape measure and refusing your box? I wouldn’t, but my risk tolerance in such a situation would be low.
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Old 12-20-21, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
But was it over 115”? Read the OP. The Amtrak bike box at issue is, which is above the maximum size allowed, regardless if there is any extra charge because it is a bike.

Again, I think your mixing up two things. Whether there is an extra charge for a bike that exceeds the normal checked baggage size/weight allowance and whether the airline will accommodate a box that exceeds its maximum size allowance.
By definition, oversized means over 115 inches. I didn't check an Amtrak box, if that's your point. I don't think I'm mixing anything up, but I think you might be. I'm done now.
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Old 12-20-21, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
....
I recently received the official dimensions of the Amtrak bike box

Bicycle Box: Size 70 in x 41 in x 8.5 in (175cm x 104cm x 22cm)


So the sum of the 3 dimensions is 119.5" which is greater than the 115" number I received from the baggage claim agent. If I am desperate I might consider cutting an Amtrak box down by 5" if it would get my bike on the plane. Outgoing flight is not so much of an issue as I think I will be able to find an acceptable box somewhere. But the return flight is unknown territory and I have grown to like the Amtrak boxes.
why not just plan on shortering the box?
ten minutes and some duck tape and you're set.
one less thing to worry about.
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Old 12-21-21, 12:50 AM
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I am guessing that there are a number of bike tourists out there that have used Amtrak boxes on airlines (either full size or cut down) and that is why I asked for their knowledge, Hopefully there is no problem flying with a full size Amtrak box. If so, it will be very useful to me.

As I noted in my original post I will cut the box down as a last resort and I will plan on arriving at the airport with enough time to do that. Not ideal for a number of reasons including that my wheelbase is 67" and the length of an Amtrak box is 71" so reducing the length by 5" is a squeeze. I guess I could let the air out of my tires and still not pull the front wheel.

It's been 40+ years since I flew with my bicycle and at that time it was without a box - remove the pedals, drop the handlebar stem and seat onto the frame, remove the wheels, remove the skewers from the hubs and tape the wheels onto either side of the main triangle of the frame. Probably I removed my chain and rear derailleur as well or maybe I just taped them up, I don't remember.. Then hand your bike unboxed to the agent at the check-in counter. It's much nicer to use an Amtrak box where you just remove the pedals and lower and twist the handlebars.

The trips I have done recently have been on Amtrak and usually without a box but I have used their boxes twice. They are $15 and are a very high quality heavy grade of cardboard. Better boxes than what I have seen new bicycles shipped in. At the end of a tour when you are in a city unfamiliar to you it seems like a great place to get a box and that is why I am guessing a lot of bike tourists have already flown with Amtrak boxes.
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Old 12-21-21, 01:18 AM
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Years ago (maybe 6), I used an Amtrak bike box on SWA. I had gone from an Amtrak ride to SWA. The bike had the regular SWA fee, whatever it was at the time. The bike got dumped upside down damaging the headset cap. Reason it got dumped (I saw it happen) is that the box is so dang bulky they had a hard time handling it and it looks like a gust of wind caught the handler off guard.

Does not pertain to your situation but my GUESS is that they are not going to do anything about it if you don't overload the bike with all kinds of non-bike stuff. Play dumb and say you thought since it IS a bike box, that it would work. ALWAYS be nice and polite to the airline check in people, even when you are disagreeing with them. I have frequently been upgraded, given a pass on luggage requirements like bike boxes, etc. by being very polite, friendly, and thankful.

Hope you have great trip!
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Old 12-21-21, 04:17 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
....I guess I could let the air out of my tires and still not pull the front wheel....


so.......ummmm...........pull the front wheel.

get a throwaway plastic fork brace from your lbs and a block of styrofoam to protect the dropouts.
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Old 12-21-21, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by kevmcd View Post
...
I think it is safe to assume that a bicycle box with L + W + D = 115" or less is ok. But I still want to know if anyone has tried flying with an Amtrak bicycle box where L + W + D = 119.5"
Even if they did and if when they did the airline personnel did not have a tape measure handy so they skipped measuring it, you never know when you might get an airline ticketing agent that is in a bad mood that will deny your case.

You are rolling the dice if you think you can do it just because someone else got an oversize (over 115 inches) box onto a plane.

Also, different planes have different size and shape cargo areas and doors. If an airline allowed it on one plane, it might be a problem on the next plane.
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Old 12-21-21, 07:53 AM
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Okay so here is what little I know on the topic.

Yes I have heard a few folks who say they did. Also I know of other folks who were allowed to exceed the 115" limit with other sports equipment that exceeded 115" (one was a pole vaulter who checked a vaulting pole). Certain items are specifically excluded from the 115" limit. I don't read it that bikes are, in fact they specifically are not in at least one airline's policy that I have read in the past. Some are not completely clear in their wording or seem to contradict themselves in different places in their policy.

Gate check agents typically don't whip out a tape measure when you check a bike and a box that is a little over would usually slip right through. An Amtrak box might pass muster as well but would be a little more likely to get denied. Why take the chance? If I had no other choice of boxes I'd cut the box down to the 115" size.
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Old 12-21-21, 07:59 AM
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Kev,

Does American Airlines go to your destination? I see that they still have the old 126" (L+W+H) box limit ...


I deleted a previous post after learning that Alaska, Delta and United have indeed gone to the 115" maximum.

If you have to cut down an Amtrak box it may be best to take it off the top. I'd need most of 70" to accommodate the length of my bike with 700c wheels. I could lower its height quite a bit by removing or lowering the seatpost and handlebar stem/riser.

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Old 12-21-21, 09:02 AM
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When thinking about checking my bike I always wonder how bad it is for tandem riders. I guess some of them spring for couplers.
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Old 12-21-21, 02:10 PM
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If you have packed in the Amtrak boxes before but not in smaller bike bikes like the boxes that a new bike comes in, you might consider asking a bike shop how much they want to pack the bike for you.
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Old 12-21-21, 04:12 PM
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didnt read all the posts, but I can add that a box that is really big will allow more possibility of the bike moving around in transit, greatly increasing chances of damage. You really dont want the bottom of the fork to be loosey goosey with lots of room, as it will get smashed back and forth into the box, putting a lot of unneeded forces into the fork and headset.

new bikes get sent packed solidly in the smallest box possible, partly for shipping costs, but also so that stuff is solid and not moving around and getting damaged.
Seriously, go to a bike store and ask to watch an unboxing, you'll get great ideas of how to properly box it and how to zip tie stuff in place safely, plus they'll be happy to give you the box and all the plastic protector things and foam. This is a win win for you to do.

other plus for the smallest box possible is that its just plain easier to get into a car, or taxi or even just moving around in the airport on a trolly and going through doors or passageways.
Been there, done that with all of the above. Would never want to use a "big" box just because. you think its easier to plop your bike into it.
Oh, also a big box probably has more chance of falling off the conveyor belts that take luggage here and there. I've sent my small box off on its own down a conveyor belt in at least one airport (Mexico City for sure) and a big box would imo be more at risk of falling off around corners and crap like that.
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Old 12-21-21, 04:39 PM
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For what it is worth, I've found Alaska Airlines to have some of the better boxes at least at airports I've flown most often. Not as large as a Amtrak box, but my large frame bike still fits by taking off front wheel, pedals, seat post and turning/removing the handle bars. All done pretty easily at the airport with an otherwise fully loaded bike. In pictures below was bike loaded for starting flight to Prudhoe Bay and resultant box/duffel that I turned this into.

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Old 12-21-21, 05:32 PM
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I attached three photos, these are of my road bike when I unpacked it from the manufacturer. In other words, this is how the manufacturer packs a bike to be shipped all over the globe. (No, the canoe was not included, that was already on my patio.) The box came from China, I have no clue how many times the box was handled from beginning to end.

I usually suggest that the chain and rear derailleur be removed first, but note that the manufacturer had that on the frame. But the third photo shows that there was a long plastic spacer on the end of the axle, so that plastic spacer kept the rear derailleur from impacting anything if the box was dropped hard on the side. And the manufacturer put the chain on the biggest sprocket in back so the rear derailleur was inward as far as it could go within the adjustments.

There was a small cardboard box there that was full of small parts too, no photo of the contents. Second photo, the saddle and seatpost are leaning against the bike.

There is a plastic spacer on the bottom of the fork to keep the fork from sticking out the bottom of the box.





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Old 12-21-21, 07:03 PM
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As a bicycle store owner for over 12 years, I can tell you that cardboard boxes from bike shops are much smaller than the ones being discussed. The one in MSN's picture would likely be close to 54 inched long, 32 inched tall (because of the tall head tube) and no more than 8 inches wide. Smaller framed bikes can be as short as 28 inches.
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Old 12-21-21, 07:20 PM
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I used to put my bike in a box and get it in as checked luggage back in the 90s, just give the curbside luggage person a $20 and he gets it on the plane. Doesn't work anymore after 9/11.
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Old 12-21-21, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by headwind15 View Post
As a bicycle store owner for over 12 years, I can tell you that cardboard boxes from bike shops are much smaller than the ones being discussed. The one in MSN's picture would likely be close to 54 inched long, 32 inched tall (because of the tall head tube) and no more than 8 inches wide. Smaller framed bikes can be as short as 28 inches.
somewhere I have a photo and I've written down the dimensions of the bike box that fits my bike best.
I have saved the plastic protective bits and some cardboard to protect my leather seat, I know I wrote these numbers on that cardboard. Lots of different bike box sizes.

hope to be able to fly again with my bike.
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