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Skyrocketing airline fees for bicycles

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At the same time that Amtrak is improving its policies for carrying bicycles, the airlines are continuing to jack up prices on bicycles as baggage.

Washington Post says that as airlines lump extra charges on passengers, they’re going overboard on those who carry bicycles.

One style of bike box (86 inches); used boxes also available at local bike shops

One style of bike box (86 inches); used also available at local bike shops

Many airlines now charge $150 to $200 each way to carry bicycles. And the extra costs don’t carry any added protections.

The Post interviewed several people who paid these excessive fees, but discovered damage to their bicycles. The airlines are reluctant to accept responsibility or make compensation for the injury or loss of the bikes.

Even Frontier Airlines is jumping on board.

When I flew to Kansas City three years ago for Biking Across Kansas, I chose Frontier because it would check a boxed bicycle as one of the two complimentary pieces of luggage on two passenger classes. In the economy class, a passenger would pay the $20 luggage fee for a bicycle.

Not since June 2014, however. “… a checked bike fee of $75 per direction applies regardless of the Fare Option purchased.  Overweight and oversize charges do not apply,” says the airline’s website.

Here are other charges as reported by the Post:

American Airlines — charges $150 per bike, unless the height, width and length add up to less than 62 inches and the weight is less than 50 pounds, in which case you’ll pay the applicable first-checked-bag rate. [Ed.: Cardboard boxes for bikes are generally in excess of 80 inches.]


Delta —  $150 per bike, with extra fees for bikes heavier than 70 pounds and an outright ban on anything heavier than 100 pounds

Southwest — $75 with certain restrictions

United — service charge of $100 for a bike over 50 pounds

Alaska Airlines is a popular carrier in the Pacific Northwest. As I understand their policies, bicycles would be charged an extra $75 for oversize. in addition to the standard baggage fee of $0 to $75, depending on the passenger class.

Avoid the charges

The Post reports several ways to avoid the extra charges.

Some bicyclists have found that it pays to show up late. Ticket counter staff won’t want to hold up a flight, so they sometimes will “cut corners” to get your luggage on its way.

Shipping a bicycle by UPS or some other carrier will avoid the costs and the hassles at the airport. Others leave the bicycle at home and rent a bike when their arrive at their destination.

Also, Amtrak is becoming an option. The rail service is testing roll-on, roll-off bicycle service on its long-distance routes. The service means bicyclists don’t have to box up their bikes, but can just roll them onto the baggage car and hang them.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2014/07/06/skyrocketing-airline-fees-for-bicycles/

5 comments

  1. Sachi Wilson

    We bought “travel bikes” from R&E, which have S&S couplers so that the bikes can be fit into a standard-sized suitcase. Not cheap but worth it if you travel a lot, as we do.

    It’s possible to fit S&S couplers to an existing frame, too, so that might be a less-expensive option if you’re interested in it.

  2. Gene Bisbee

    That’s an excellent point, Sachi. Here’s some more info on S&S couplers from
    wikipedia

  3. sue

    Alaska Airlines charges $75 for boxed bikes the same as for an oversize/overweight bag. It is NOT in addition to a regular bag fee as this article incorrectly suggests.

    1. Gene Bisbee

      Thanks for that clarification. I didn’t see the note: ” If a checked bag falls into more than one fee category (piece number, oversize, overweight), only the higher, single fee is charged.”

  4. David

    Ruster Bikes sells an awesome small case called the Hen House. You have to take off the fork, pedals, wheels, handlebars, seat and then it will count as CHECKED BAGGAGE! i’m going to buy it. http://rustersports.com/product/hen-house/

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