Any kind of travel with your bike where you’re not actually pedalling the thing tends to be a fraught experience, and transporting your pride and joy on a commercial flight often has a unique blood-pressure boosting effect.

Even if you pack it up super carefully, you’re still going to worry that everything will be in pieces come the other end.

Even before you get that far you have to contend with the mystical world of airline bike carriage tariffs. We’ve looked at six major domestic airlines, and a few foreign ones, to see who deserves your flying time.

True Brits

Let’s begin with British Airways, the nation’s flagship carrier, and it’s a promising start. BA says that bikes can be carried free of charge so long as they make up part of your standard baggage allowance. If you take a bike in addition to your standard baggage allowance you will have to pay further charges, which start at £28.

British Midland International offers much the same policy for its business and flexible economy passengers with anything over your standard baggage allowance incurring a £30 fixed fee per item per journey. However, anybody flying with a bike on a BMI economy ticket is guaranteed to be opening their wallets again. A flat fee of £30 per journey is applied for any bike in a box that weighs less than 20kg. If it’s over 20kg then you’re looking at a £60 surcharge per flight.

BMI’s budget carrier, bmibaby, offers a cheaper service – £17.99 if paid in advance or £23 paid at check-in per journey for a sub-18kg bike in a box. However, there is one major caveat: “These items will be carried subject to space availability on the aircraft,” bmibaby says.

“All items will officially travel stand-by and bmibaby will not be responsible for repatriation if there is a delay.”

That incredible ‘no guarantee’ approach is shared by another low-cost airline, FlyBe, who will only take your bike if there is enough space in the hold. FlyBe’s price for offering this ‘service’ is a flat £30 per journey.

A favourite among cyclists taking training camps in Majorca is Monarch Airlines, and it offers a pretty reasonable deal. Each bike will cost you £18.50 (advance) or £25 (check-in) per journey, and maximum weight is 20kg.

Now to the big two budget flyers – EasyJet and Ryanair. Stelios’s EJ crew charge £18.50 (advance) or £26 (check-in) per journey to carry your bike, and they recommend you check-in two hours before take-off to guarantee it gets on board. But take a bike with Michael O’Leary’s set-up and you will be stung for a massive £40 (advance) or £50 (check-in). Which won’t even leave you enough money for your on board purchases.

Foreign flyers

So how does that compare to our Continental cousins – traditionally people who are more sympathetic to cyclists? Well, both Air France and the Dutch national airline KLM let you take your bike as part of your standard baggage allowance. But Germany’s Lufthansa charges 70 euros (£60) per flight to transport bikes, and topping our little survey is Spanish airline Iberia, with a fixed fee of 75 euros (£65) per flight. Makes you proud to be British.

Finally, here’s one last tip: if you know you’re going to be taking your bike away, get all your baggage issues sorted and paid for before reaching the airport. You’ll save a significant amount of money by paying online or on the phone rather than at check-in, and you might also save yourself from some unpleasant last-minute surprises as well.

Have you had a problem trying to take your bike on a flight? Contact us at cycling@ipcmedia.com, put ‘Rip-off Britain’ in the subject box, and let us know what happened.

Travelling with your bike: Packing ‘em in

Whatever discrepancies there might be between carriers, all the major airlines agree on one thing – the rules on packing your bike:

First, take off your pedals.

Then turn your bars so that they run parallel with your top tube.

Remove your front wheel and attach it to your frame.

Deflate your tyres.

Then pack it all in a bicycle box or bag (some airlines have these available to buy at the check-in desk).

Don’t try carrying anything else in the box.

Then cross your fingers, say a little prayer, and hope you see it the other side.

Bikes on planes graph 2011

 

This article originally appeared in the April 21 2011 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine

Even if you pack it up super carefully, you’re still going to worry that everything will be in pieces come the other end.

Even before you get that far you have to contend with the mystical world of airline bike carriage tariffs. We’ve looked at six major domestic airlines, and a few foreign ones, to see who deserves your flying time.

True Brits

Let’s begin with British Airways, the nation’s flagship carrier, and it’s a promising start. BA says that bikes can be carried free of charge so long as they make up part of your standard baggage allowance. If you take a bike in addition to your standard baggage allowance you will have to pay further charges, which start at £28.

British Midland International offers much the same policy for its business and flexible economy passengers with anything over your standard baggage allowance incurring a £30 fixed fee per item per journey. However, anybody flying with a bike on a BMI economy ticket is guaranteed to be opening their wallets again. A flat fee of £30 per journey is applied for any bike in a box that weighs less than 20kg. If it’s over 20kg then you’re looking at a £60 surcharge per flight.

BMI’s budget carrier, bmibaby, offers a cheaper service – £17.99 if paid in advance or £23 paid at check-in per journey for a sub-18kg bike in a box. However, there is one major caveat: “These items will be carried subject to space availability on the aircraft,” bmibaby says.

“All items will officially travel stand-by and bmibaby will not be responsible for repatriation if there is a delay.”

That incredible ‘no guarantee’ approach is shared by another low-cost airline, FlyBe, who will only take your bike if there is enough space in the hold. FlyBe’s price for offering this ‘service’ is a flat £30 per journey.

A favourite among cyclists taking training camps in Majorca is Monarch Airlines, and it offers a pretty reasonable deal. Each bike will cost you £18.50 (advance) or £25 (check-in) per journey, and maximum weight is 20kg.

Now to the big two budget flyers – EasyJet and Ryanair. Stelios’s EJ crew charge £18.50 (advance) or £26 (check-in) per journey to carry your bike, and they recommend you check-in two hours before take-off to guarantee it gets on board. But take a bike with Michael O’Leary’s set-up and you will be stung for a massive £40 (advance) or £50 (check-in). Which won’t even leave you enough money for your on board purchases.

Foreign flyers

So how does that compare to our Continental cousins – traditionally people who are more sympathetic to cyclists? Well, both Air France and the Dutch national airline KLM let you take your bike as part of your standard baggage allowance. But Germany’s Lufthansa charges 70 euros (£60) per flight to transport bikes, and topping our little survey is Spanish airline Iberia, with a fixed fee of 75 euros (£65) per flight. Makes you proud to be British.

Finally, here’s one last tip: if you know you’re going to be taking your bike away, get all your baggage issues sorted and paid for before reaching the airport. You’ll save a significant amount of money by paying online or on the phone rather than at check-in, and you might also save yourself from some unpleasant last-minute surprises as well.

Have you had a problem trying to take your bike on a flight? Contact us at cycling@ipcmedia.com, put ‘Rip-off Britain’ in the subject box, and let us know what happened.

Travelling with your bike: Packing ‘em in

Whatever discrepancies there might be between carriers, all the major airlines agree on one thing – the rules on packing your bike:

First, take off your pedals.

Then turn your bars so that they run parallel with your top tube.

Remove your front wheel and attach it to your frame.

Deflate your tyres.

Then pack it all in a bicycle box or bag (some airlines have these available to buy at the check-in desk).

Don’t try carrying anything else in the box.

Then cross your fingers, say a little prayer, and hope you see it the other side.

Bikes on planes graph 2011

  • Justin

    Easyjet is now £35 each way
    United Airlines is $100 per flight if the linear inches are over 62″ (most bags and boxes), within USA. $200 for international flights.
    Virgin Atlantic, like BA, is free.

    Note — most US cities have great rentals — delivered to hotel is typically $125 per day + $30 additional. Collected from store is typically $70 per day. Price for carbon bikes. This is typically cheaper, and a load less hassle, and gives an opportunity to try a new bike. I’ve often sent over bikefit details, and the bike is completely covered. Usually includes toolkit, pump, helmet; but check first. (The last people I used excluded the multitool). These guys can also usually point you to great GPX downloads.

    Don’t forget to remember that the taxi service to/from airport can be additional cost, since you might not be able to put the bike in any old taxi.

    Also, some hotels can be fussy about bike in the room… worth checking, though a bagged up bike usually gets through.

    • Jonathan Collins

      How does bike rental at $70 per day work out cheaper than taking it on board? One week’s worth of riding at that rate comes to almost $500. Do you have any links for these shops/services?
      I’ve done my own research on hiring a road bike abroad, and its either nigh on impossible to find a hire centre that stocks a road bike, or a shop willing to hire out. Oh, and if you do get lucky, the prices tend to be sky-high, as above.

      One important note you hit on though is the airport-hotel transfer. The closer the airport to the hotel the better. Do your research. Email the local taxi firms, check out the local bus companies. I’ve not had a problem (so far) getting my bike case into a taxi boot. Luggage is luggage at the end of the day. The taxi driver just wants his fare.
      Same with the hotels, do your research and ask them the question. I usually stay in hostels = usually no problemo :-)

  • lawler

    The reason flybe cannot guarantee room in the hold, on their flight’s is the holds on the majority of their aircraft are so small. Possibly not big enough for every passenger to take 20kg suitcases on a fully sold out flight. (they are that small)

  • Rob

    Looks like Easyjet have read your article and put their prices up, it’s now £25.00 for a bike but this is in addition to the standard bag fee of £9.00 – something that is not not clear unless you read all the T&C’s (which I didn’t and nearly got caught out)