The price for gas, food and flights is on the rise, yet international travel is still highly desired among many bicycle travelers. So how do you fly with your bike and avoid the fees imposed by most major airlines?
Traveling with a Bike Friday or other such folding bike might be a good idea. But what if you want to fly with a full size bicycle? If that’s the case, you might be asking yourself, “Which airline should I use? Which companies cater most to bicycle travelers?” And most importantly, “Which airlines should I avoid at all costs?”
In this article I set out to discover what kind of policies and prices 15 of the world’s largest airlines impose on travelers flying with a full size bicycle. Here is what I discovered:
Note: The prices and policies found in this article are subject to change at any time. Do your own research before selecting an airline to fly with.
Starting off in alphabetical order, Air Canada has a pretty straightforward and affordable policy for flying with your bike. You should notify the airline at the time of booking that you will be flying with a bicycle and know in advance that your bicycle will be counted as one of your two standard pieces of baggage. However, you will be charged an additional $50 per direction to fly with your bike because of its size and weight.
As with most of the airlines on our list, your bike must be packaged in a cardboard bike box or other such bicycle suitcase/container. If not packaged in a container, Air Canada will provide you with a plastic bicycle bag in which you can ship your bike, but you should know that shipping your bike in this state will most certainly cause some sort of damage to your equipment – thus, the reason they make you sign a liability form that releases them from any damage they may cause.
If you choose to fly with Air France, expect to pay big time when you check your bicycle on board. While Air France allows ski equipment, golf bags, and diving equipment to be checked as normal baggage, bicycles are not accepted as part of the regular baggage allowance and are charged at at a rate of €150 (or approximately $200 USD) per direction.
All Nippon Airways
Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, All Nippon Airways is Japan’s second largest international airline and the country’s largest domestic airline. With service to 49 destinations in Japan and 22 international hot spots, All Nippon Airways has one of the most complex policies for flying with a bike.
If you choose to fly with All Nippon, your bicycle is going to be immediately classified as excess baggage because it exceeds the standard 80 inch policy (Length + Width + Depth) that the airline imposes. But unlike most airlines that have a standard rate for flying with a bicycle, All Nippon offers different rates for travelers flying to and from different destinations.
For example, if you are starting your trip in Los Angeles and arriving in Japan, you will be charged a rate of $110 USD for the one way flight. However, if you are leaving from New York and arriving in Japan, you are charged an extra $20, making your bike cost $130 for the one way trip to your destination in Japan.
On the way back home, the traveler departing from Japan and arriving in Los Angeles will be charged 19,800 Yen (About $200 USD). The traveler going home to New York will be billed $215 USD (or 22,000 Yen) in order to get their bicycle back home.
However, travelers flying to Guam or Hawaii enjoy drastically reduced rates for shipping their bicycle to these island destinations.
Like many airlines right now, American Airlineshas just recently changed their baggage policies in an attempt to squeeze every penny they can out of their passengers.
According to their website, “Customers who purchased domestic economy class tickets May 12, 2008, through June 14, 2008, may check one bag for free and check a second bag for $25 each way. Customers who purchase domestic economy class tickets on or after June 15, 2008, will be charged $15 each way for the first checked bag and $25 each way for the second checked bag.”
They go on to say that those of us traveling with bicycles will be charged an additional “$100 in addition to the applicable checked baggage fee.” This $100 fee is per direction. A round trip flight with your bicycle will cost $200 in addition to the regular price of your ticket.
The only exception to this rule, of course, is if you having a folding bicycle which can fit inside a regular suitcase or package measuring less than 62 dimensional inches and remains under the airline’s 50 pound weight limit. Even then, you’ll still be forced to pay the $15/$25 fees if traveling with one or two pieces of total baggage.
Amazingly enough, there is an airline that will fly your bicycle for free and treat it as a normal piece of checked baggage! That being said, British Airways only allows one free piece of checked baggage per passenger. Therefore, if you are traveling with another box containing your panniers or trailer, you will be charged extra for this second piece of luggage. The only people who can avoid this are those belonging to the airline’s FIRST, World Club, and World Traveler Plus programs. For the rest of us, we’ll be charged anywhere from £20 – £90 ($35 – $150 USD) depending on our destination and the distance of our flight. Register and pay for your excess baggage in advance when you check in online and you’ll save as much as $25 per bag.
Another airline with a fairly straightforward baggage policy for bicycle travelers is Continental Airlines. If flying with a bicycle, it must be packaged properly and you will be forced to pay a $100 fee per direction (unless of course, you can get your bicycle in a package measuring less than 62 dimensional inches).
Even when flying with a folding bike you’ll be forced to pay $15 for your first checked bag and $25 for your second.
Deltawins the prize for charging the most amount of money its passengers traveling with a bicycle. If you choose to fly your bike with Delta, expect to pay $175 per direction for flights within the United States and $300 per direction for flights to international destinations.
My guess is that by charging almost twice as much as other airlines, Delta may be trying to force bicycle travelers off their flights entirely. This is a strategy many businesses take in times such as this. It’s more of a burden for them to deal with the bicycles, so they up the price in hopes that 1) no one will fly with a bicycle when using their airline or 2) if someone does decide to fly with a bicycle, they at least make a healthy profit for their extra efforts.
This German airline has an incredibly complicated baggage policy, with five different zones and an array of prices and fees associated with travelers in and outside of these various areas. For the most part, Deutsch Lufthansa allows international travelers to check 2 bags free of charge.
According to the airline, bicycles are considered a medium sized piece of excess baggage and are priced as follows:
Can anyone tell me what the difference between “Within Europe” and “Europe-Intercontinental.” I’m guessing that “Intercont-intercont via EU” means international flights to locations outside of Europe, but otherwise I’m left a bit confused – scratching my head.
Based in Madrid, Iberia is Spain’s largest airline. Their policy is very straightforward. They charge a flat rate of €75 ($100 USD) per direction for bicycles shipped on their planes… and they’ll even sell you a bike box for €20 at most of their airports.
Try as I may, I couldn’t find a definitive answer to how much it costs to fly with my bicycle on Korean Airways. You’re allowed to fly with two pieces of checked luggage, but unless your bike fits under the standard 62 inch dimension rule, you’re going to be forced to pay the excess baggage fee for your bicycle. The only problem is, you don’t know exactly how much that fee is going to be!
According to the website, travelers inside of Korea are charged an excess baggage fee equal to 3% of their one way ticket. Passengers outside of the Americas are charged 1.5% of the price for their one way flight for excess baggage, but those of us who are flying to and from America must pay an unknown fee imposed by the airline once we show up at the airport. The rates for overweight baggage are clearly defined, but the rates for over sized baggage is completely left a mystery. The only clue left for the traveling cyclist is a one line sentence on the website which states, “Excess baggage fee may vary depending on departing countries.”
If you ask me, you better call the airline and check before you book a flight with Korean Air. Get the name of the person you spoke with, and if possible, ask that they send you an email confirmation which will ensure you get that price once you show up at the airport with your bicycle.
Qantas Airwaysis the national airway of Australia. Nicknamed “The Flying Kangaroo,” this international airline allows bicycles to replace one of your two checked bags. That being said, if your bicycle does exceed the size or weight restrictions the airline imposes, there is a complicated proceedure used to determine just how much you will be charged for flying with your overzied bicycle.
For most of us, however, you should be able to get away without having to pay an extra baggage fee. According to the website, “the bike box constitues one piece of checked baggage. Additional baggage rates will be charged if the bike box and checked baggage exceed the free baggage piece allowance.
Ryanairis an Irish airline with headquarters in Dublin and its biggest operational base at the London Stansted Airport. It is Europe’s largest low-cost carrier.
The airline has a straightforward and affordable policy for passengers traveling with a bicycle. If you book your flight at the airport or through the Ryanair call center, you are charged a rate of £32 or €40 (Approximately $55). If you book online, you’ll save a little money and pay only £25 or €30 (Approximately $40-$45).
Southwest Airlinesis one of the few companies still allowing two free pieces of checked baggage on domestic flights. In addition to the fact that they refuse to follow the other airlines by nickle and diming their customers, Southwest has a low priced fee of just $50 for one way flights with a bicycle. They even make special effort to point out the fact that folding bicycles like “Bike Friday and Co-Pilot bicycles are accepted in substitution for a free piece of checked baggage at no additional charge.”
One of the world’s largest airlines, United has a simple and straightforward policy regarding bicycles on their flights. Passengers flying with a bicycle pay a fee of $125 per direction, unless of course you were lucky enough to purchase your ticket(s) before June 13, 2008. If that were the case, your bicycle would have flown for $25 less.
As you can see, however, airlines are continuing to up their prices and I don’t expect this trend to come to a rest anytime soon.
Finally, US Airways(the airline I used last summer to fly to and from Germany for an amazingly low price of just $650 roundtrip (including my bicycle which flew for free)), now charges $100 per direction to fly with a bicycle. As with all other airlines I’ve surveyed for this article, your bicycle must be packaged properly and a release form will need to be signed.
41 thoughts on “Major Airline Policies And Prices For Flying With A Bicycle”
I remember flying my bike back in the 90s for $40 and I thought that was expensive.
Do you really think folding bikes are going to replace regular bicycles? I’m interested in getting one, but don’t know if its worth the investment.
Katya, I don’t think folding bikes are going to “replace” full size bikes any time soon, but for certain people, I do think folding bicycles are really a great option.
I think that with everything happening with the economy right now, there are going to be some people who start to travel much less than they did in the past. These are the people who are pinching pennies and waiting for better times to come.
Then there are going to be others who see this economic situation as an opportunity to travel in a low cost manner. Bicycle touring is probably one of the cheapest ways to travel… and I think the sport will attract a lot of people who want to travel, but don’t necessarily have a lot of money to spend of regular travel expenses.
Over the past few years I’ve seen a growing trend toward entrpreneurs (like myself) who work from home, travel the world, and make more money that most people in regular 9-5 jobs. If this trend continues (and I think that it will), I think folding bicycles for these world travelers will be an excellent option.
Does that answer your question? I’m not quite sure, but I think it does. I see folding bikes becoming extremely popular for heavy travelers. Other people won’t see the value in it. You just need to decide which group of people you are going to be a part of.
FYI: I flew with my full size touring bike last year on Ryan Air and they did not charge me an additional fee. I don’t remember exactly the price of Iceland Air, but I think it was about $100 each way.
Joshua, I also flew my bike last year for free. But things have changed drastically over the past 6 months and I expect things to continue to change in the airline industry over the next couple years. Just because you were able to get away with flying your bike for free in the past does not mean you will be able to do it in the future. If you do get away with it, please let me know what airline and the date of your flight! I am certainly interested in hearing what airlines are catering to bicycle travelers and hope to reward them with my business.
Great article!. I would like to add that even if Continental has a fee of $100, they WILL charge for oversize and overweight. That said, they wanted to charge me $250 (each way) for bringing my bicycle from Puerto Rico to Albuquerque, NM. I left my bike home and rented one in Albuquerque, so I ended up paying $140 for the whole week, instead of $500.
I have traveled quite a bit this year with my bike (a Ritchey Break-Away) and so far no problems. One time the derailler hangar got bent in transit – so now I remove the derailler and wrap in bubble and tape it to the frame. Not a big deal.
Always a good idea to bring extra bubble wrap and tape.
read your article on bicycle transport on airplanes. Can’t quite agree with your findings.
To my knowledge, IATA has established the “piece concept” on transatlantic routes, meaning you are allowed two pieces of luggage each weighing max 23 kilos (tourist class). A boxed bicyle qualifies as sporting goods, i.e. the size limitations don’ apply, it is counted as one such piece.
When I came over to the US for my transam trip earlier this year, it worked perfectly, no surcharge or any problems. I had my panniers and other stuff packed into a large cheap plastic carrying bag so it constituted another single piece of luggage, making sure it did not exceed 23 kilos. Some heavier items I carried on board, normally airlines don’t control the weight of carry-on luggage.
I flew United coming, Lufthansa returning, again no problem except on the return flight my bags were 3 kilos overweight which cost me 50 $ extra, for this they might have weighed up to 32 kilos.
Check this out, could be helpful for your own trip coming to Europe!
Being a IATA regulation, this is supposed to apply to all airlines on transatlantic routes. When I looked into going to New Zealand, I found a hint proposing flying via the US instead of Asia for exactly that reason. Going via Asia/Australia, the bike costs a lot extra (New Zealand Air may be an exception, they adopt the piece concept on all their routes). Going via the US and continuing westward, the piece concept continues to apply, but not so if your trip starts in the US.
I just did a double check since i’m flying with British Airways next summer and according to their website the one item of sporting equipment is IN ADDITION to your checked baggage allowance. So if you are flying to the USA from the UK as I am doing; you get an allowance of two items of checked baggage + the sporting equipment.
Not too shabby huh?
Chris, these policies change all the time. It’s great if that’s what the policy is now, but it might not be the policy when it actually comes time to fly. If I were you, I would print out the British Airways policy for flying with your bicycle so that just in case they change their rules, you can at least show them this piece of paper and argue that when you bought your ticket, the bicycle was included for free. I did this on a recent trip and while it worked on the way to the destination, it did not work on the way back (simply because of the people I was dealing with). Either way, it might be a good idea to simply print out the rules from the website and hold on to them just in case something happens. Good luck!
I know these policies change frequently, and sometimes seem to depend on the agent at check in. For what it is worth, I flew from San Francisco to Bangkok in December 2008 with my standard sized touring bike on EVA airline. There was no charge for the Bicycle at that time. On flights within Thailand, we were not charged for our bicycles on Thai airlines, but we did pay a small charge on Thai Air Asia.
I have flown at least 2 times with Air Canada in the past , just rolling the bike up to the counter with the seat lowered, handlebars sideways, pedals off and then of course they will make you deflate the tires. It seems all airline check-in people want to make sure that the air is out of the bloody tires. Bike suffered a small ding, big deal. I think they probably treat the bike better if it looks like a bike rather than a box. Also have flown on Cathay Pacific , rolling up to the counter. It’s the way to go in my opinion and so far i have not been denied or suffered major damage. Thai Airways is awesome in this respect.
It’s nearly impossible to keep current on the baggage policies especially for cycles! I get a different answer nearly everytime I ask the airline. and all airlines differ. and now i just read another post about southwest’s policy for bicycles and it’s so confusing. ahhhhh! athletic-minded traveler posted about it today: https://www.athleticmindedtraveler.com/blog/?p=886
United is already up to $200 each way to Europe. Ouch.
I flew with a bike for the first time this summer – from Frankfurt to Bangkok, then up to Laos where I live. I flew Emirates to Bangkok then Thai up to Laos. I checked with the airline first and they said no problem so long as it was in a carboard bike box. The economy baggage allowance was 30 kg. which is 10 kg more than on most flights.
I though Frankfurt would be strict on this, but as it turned out they let me go even though I was well over 30 kg. The bike in it’s box alone weighed in at 25kg, eventhough they didn’t check this as the box didn’t fit in on the scales at the counter. I’d put in a pair of empty panniers and a handlebar bag, helmet,etc. I also had a 15kg backpack to check in and a carry on camera bag. They said no problem. There was a flight change in Dubai, but Thai in Bangkok was the strictest with the weight allowance although at only 100Baht per kg over it was no big deal and everything arrived safely in Vientiane.
If anyone’s thinking of flying their bike up to Laos from Bangkok remember that Thai uses the bigger airplanes. The smaller Lao airlines ATR might not accept a bike. But there’s always the train.
Other cyclists I’ve met have had more hassles coming to Asia with European airlines, so maybe Emirates or other Gulf airlines are a better bet. Thai is probably not as in this part of the world the very idea of travelling with a bike is alien.
Haven’t been any replies since my last post in Feb! Now I’m trying to get to the US with my bike and it’s looking bad. Only EVA and Delta offer reasonable routing to my destination – Seattle. Delta is known as the least bike friendly airline around, but I now find EVA is catching up. I was told from their Bangkok office that I would be charged $300 each way if my bike package exceeded 1.5 meters. Maybe I could fit into that specification if a dismantle the bike, but then there’s the weight allowance which is only around 25 kg total and my bike will weigh in close to that. Thai still seems good with bikes but they do’nt fly to Seattle. So that’s it. Let’s stop people cycling and help destory the environment a bit faster!
Nigel – if you’re flying to Seattle, it’s also be worth checking flights to Vancouver or Portland, and traveling the last 200km by land. Might add some better options for airlines, worth checking anyway.
Anyway, another airline to add to the list – Westjet (a Canadian airline with a number of destination in the US and the Caribbean) will carry bikes the same as any other baggage. Oversize charge, $50 each way, is likely to to apply unless you have a folder, and another $50 if you can’t pack it under 23kg/50lbs. My bike weighs in at 30lbs, so it seems like that shouldn’t be a problem.
Travel a lot with a hard shell bike box but most airlines seem to be getting tighter on their rules. Anyone out there in the ether who can recommend the best airline for Heathrow return to Bangkok, I would be most appreciative for advice. John Hicks.
Have flown my *full size” bicycle at no charge on British Airways in 2004 from NY to Amsterdam. El Al also flew my full sized bicycle for free from Holland.
Flying my 20″ folding Dahon tomorrow on Delta. It meets the dimension requirements, so I don’t anticipate major problems.
Something to consider if you plan on doing much bicycle travel and need to fly to your start point: I have a full size touring bicycle that is both sturdy and beautiful. I pay a standard checked bag fee (if the airline requires it) for my bicycle because it breaks down completely, including fenders (in just over an hour) and packs into a 26 inch airline legal suit case. The black suit case has no identifying marks on it and I can put my helmet, bikes shoes, and 3 water bottles in and the weight comes in at 48 pounds. I had this bike built at R & E Cycles in Seattle (really great folks to work with) and had “couplers” installed during the build that save a lot of extra fees in the long term. It is hassle free at the airport and can be put back together in about 1 -2 hours. Very much worth the extra cost for the couplers. You can email me for any questions regarding the bike.
Just to update all – I DID call Delta before setting out to the Airport, and was surprised to learn that the size of the bicycle didn’t matter – it could fit their allotted suitcase size or even be LESS. As far as Delta is concerned – any sized bicycle is $300 EACH WAY.
So…flying again next month… Continental. They do consider size.
Hey, Great information, but I think it is time for a “Major Airline Policies and Prices for Flying with a Bicycle in 2011.” I’m not sure if much has changed, but I have seen a few discrepancies. An easily accessible webpage with the above information may be handy. A lot can change in two years.
Hey, EL AL airline will fly my bicycle for free and allowing two free pieces of checked baggage . Its mean that I can take 35 kg with me (including the bike) and not pay anything !!!
I have flown Korean Air, Jetstar, Qantas, Air NZ, Emirates, Singapore air, each time with a full size bicycle and had no charges or problems, that’s for flights out of NZ, I understand almost all airlines flying between Australia/NZ and Europe, via Asia take bicycles at no extra charge, in all cases they are part of your 23kg luggage allowance
Under Air Canada please note that it is a $50 handling fee each direction plus an oversize bag fee (now $75 for economy class flights) each direction, that is in addition to counting as a piece of luggage. Just in case it’s not clear in the above article.
If any one knows of great rates for bicycles withing Canada, to the US or overseas, please post. Thanks.
I don’t know great rates for bicycles but I did find a site that appears to have updated info on bike costs on the airlines departing from the US. Looks pretty accurate and some decent explanations, although a little wordy. Hope it helps. https://www.airlinebagfees.com/bicycles/charts/
Emirates – Oct 2011 Rome to Auckland NZ via Dubai and Australia. Cheapest fare ticket. Allowance 30kg. Does not seem to be any size limit. Checked in one Greensparke Ulisse ebike broken down by the bike shop and wrapped in foam and cut up cardboard box with lots of tape. Bike weighs 27 kg, consumer scale said 29.9kg wrapped, but at airport in Rome, it said 33 kg (and Australia has strict limits over 32 kg I was told). I offered to cut open the tape and remove 3 kgs. Called over the supervisor. Waved it through. No charge. Arrived in Auckland with no damage. I’ll be flying Emirates to Prague in April and bringing back a beautiful town bike.
Also great planes… 380 Airbus, like a flying living room. Solid and comfortable.
El Al are now charging 210$ to fly your bike …
That’s right, Gilad! They also wrote that “they are pleased to inform me that I can now carry ONE (previously one was allowed TWO) piece of luggage free of charge!
“Progress” is truly wonderful!!
Don’t fly us airways. They charge 200 for bikes now. And they ‘just recently’ changed their prices. It’s basically the price of a ticket to fly your bike and your luggage. Ridiculous.
If you use a high-end bike box to transport your bicycle, the airport will usually not store it for you. You will, instead, have to find a place to store the bicycle box yourself.
What I usually do, however, is to simply transport the bicycle in a cardboard bicycle box (which can usually be aquired for free from your local bike shop). You will pack your bicycle in the cardboard bike box and once you arrive at the start of your bicycle tour, you simply take the bicycle out of the box and throw the box in the trash.
Then at the end of the tour, when you want to return home, you pick up another cardboard bike box from one of the local bike shops in the area, pack up your bike in the box, and then fly your bicycle home. Once home, you throw the cardboard bike box away… and that’s it!
This is easier said than done in some parts of the world, but in most modern cities/countries, this is an easy way to do it!
Otherwise, yes, you will have to find a place to store you bike box locally. You can try to find someone in the area that would be willing to store it for you. The airport usually won’t do it, but a local hotel, hostel or campground might.
Ryanair are now charging 50Euros/GBP per flight.
hi, ” Bicycle Touring Pro”,
I like the cardboard box plan, but aren`t those boxes ENORMOUS and carry the bike to the shop with wheels assembled? I`m planning to use Ryannair and wonder if they will let such a big box be stored in the hold at the standard price What do you think ?
PreviouslyI`ve used a plastic bag that you find inside a bike box trimmed it down and opened the base to allow me to wheel the bike to check in. But that was a few years back.
Edward. There are two main types of cardboard bicycle boxes. Yes, some of them are huge and designed to hold a bicycle with both the front and rear wheels attached. The smaller bicycle boxes, however, are designed so that you have to remove the front wheel and place it alongside the bicycle inside the cardboard box. This is the type of cardboard box you will need to use when packing your bicycle for air travel.
KLM is FREE as long as it’s under 23KG. My case with bike is closer to 12kg!! I guess I’ll be flying to Europe through Amsterdam! 🙂
Aer Lingus let’s you fly with one bike for no extra charge.
In summer 2012 my wife and I flew from San Francisco to Dublin, and back from Copenhagen to SF, on British Airways, and they were complete rock stars about it. Free, no hassles. (Well, in Copenhagen, the check-in woman asked *us* what the charge was for a bike to be checked. We said, “British Airways takes bikes for no additional charge.” She said, “Oh, ok.” I think CPH has check-in staff that work for multiple airlines).
To avoid having to pay for a second checked bag, we stuffed panniers and other gear into the boxes to the limit (23 kilos, I think?), and each took a pannier as a carryon.
Can not recommend Qatar enough.
Standard is one bag and 32kg but they also allow allow your bike to go for free and give you an extra 10kg free (need to ring them and let them know). So your bike and bag must come in under 42kg, but no charge.
Things may well be different to States. Great airline too although Doha can be chaotic at busy times.
British Airways allow you to pay for an extra bag (roughly $60 per leg or section of your flight). However this extra bag does not increase your overall weight allowance for checked baggage which remains 23kg for most people. They do, however allow one bag up to 23kg (work that one out) in the cabin! So most cycle tourists will still be up for another lot of excess baggage even if they pay another $300 or so for the 3 legs from say Sydney to Manchester (return).
Bike on board:
Flew with Philippine airlines and was not impressed. I called the night before and asked their customer service regarding policies for such. And she said that if i pack it in the bix with the other stuff with such dize of this and that under 23 kgs. it will be ok.
We also double check the weight at the weighing scale when we got to the airport and we’re right on the mark. We reached the check-in and this lady asked me to open it and charged meUS$150.00 for overweight and bulk size. Like WHAT????!!!!! I explained to her but she wouldnt listen. Such a trouble maker. We have to open our luggage and remove some stuff for the next hour. Btw, she’s a check in lady to san francisco where the porter had recommended us to go.
If you’re ever flying PAL. I’m warning you of their bad service.
My daughter, 6 y/o was my companion & they dont care of those hazards.
Any body there who knows airlines that fly from San Francisco to the Philippines if how much fhe fee to fly with a bike?
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