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.
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.