FAQ: How to fly with your
This is document has been
published on the web so we can look it up and remember all the hard
learned lessons about flying with bikes. Thanks to JF Mezei for
preparing this for us.
Upon Arriving at
Fitting the Bicycle into
Packing your Touring Gear
For international flights, bicycles are generally carried free of
charge, but counts as a piece of luggage towards your normal limit.
From flights to/from North America, one is generally
limited to 2
pieces of luggage, so you must find a
way to package the rest into one
domestic flights, north american airlines charge an
exhorbitant rate (over USD $50). However, there are times when the
check-in agent can kindly forget to charge you the
amount (but don't
count on it).
must pack your bike and panniers/camping equipment prior to lining
up to check in. If you need to obtain bicycle bag
and/or packing tape,
you should locate any airline
employee that isn't behind a long line
and ask for
what you need.
- Each airline has different policies on
acceptable packing of bicycles.
airlines except a few (such as Qantas) accept bagged
and boxed bicycles. You need to inquire with the airline about
availability of packing material at the airport you intend to depart
from. Airlines often do not have them at airports
outside their home
country. In such cases, you need
to plan ahead of time and obtain a
bag locally and
have it shipped by post to be picked up when you get
to the airport. Sometimes, when advance notice is given, some
will send bags to their remote station.
Boxes provided by airlines are often too small for touring bags. Not
only do they require you remove the seat, but
sometimes you must also
punch holes to allow the
real wheel and rack to protrude. Front wheel
almost always be removed to fit in airline boxes.
- You will need to have the tool to
remove your pedals as well as loosen
stem so it can be turned. You should make sure that the
tools you bring to the airport will be able to untighten both. If
pedals were tightened with a large wrench, it
is unlikely you will be
able to unscrew them with an
- Packing tape. You can generally borrow the
orange packing tape from a
check-in agent. Or you
can purchase a disposable of transparent
tape from a office supplies shop.
- Bicycle bag or
bicycle box. Many but not all airlines provide those at
major airports. At some airports, you can purchase those from private
packing businesses that operate on airport grounds.
Some airlines will
take unpacked bicycles.
ARRIVING AT AIRPORT
- You must pack everything
before you can check-in. Sometimes, you need
to the check-in desk to request the packing material. Some
airlines have a courtesy desk, a ticketing desk or other desk where
you can generally get hold of an employee without
much of a wait. You
can then request whatever
- You can expect (but not count on)
airline providing you with:
-bicycle bag or box
-packing tape (which you must return to
the same agent you borrowed it
Make sure you have everything before you start staging your
bike/luggage packing operation. Airport security balks at some
luggage strewn on the floor with nobody there
because you had to go
back to some desk to ask for
Once you have finished obtaining
what you need, you should find a spot
not too far
from your check in area, but that gives you enough room to
disassemble your luggage/bike and pack everything.
- You need to deflate your tyres.
However, partial deflation is more
than enough and
still gives some protection to the rims.
- Remove both
pedals. Sandwich-size Ziploc bags are great to store the
pedals once removed and you can fit them in your panniers.
Turn the handlebar. Untighten the stem bolt, then turn the handlebar
clockwise 90° (to the right). It is important to
tighten the bolt once
it has been rotated since
baggage handler will grab your bicycle by
handlebars and you don't want it to pop out of the frame !
Tape any loose items, especially bicycle pump. You'll want the water
bottle with you on the flight.
should have clear identification as well as destination city
affixed to your bike so that if the luggage tag gets damaged, they
still figure out where to send it.
BICYCLE INTO BAG
You will roll your bike into the bag.
Hold the bike upright with one hand.
- Hold the bag
opened with one hand keeping the top and one foot keeping
- Push the bike into the bag until the wheel
has reached the very end.
- Make sure that the edge of
the bag is aligned with the bike.
- Once bike is fully
inserted into bag, you can then lay it onto the
- Grab the open end and twist it until the bag
is closed snugly to the
length of your bike (so that
your bike can't roll inside bag).
- While keeping the
bag twisted, roll some packing tape around the twist
to keep it from opening. The edge of the tape should be
visible so that unpacking will be
easier (especially if you plan to
- If there are obvious loose folds of bags
protruding, you can use tape
to secure them to make
a more streamlined package. (This is not
and not recommended if you wish to re-use the bags).
YOUR TOURING GEAR
- If traveling on the 2 piece of
luggage system, this requires
imagination, as well
as multiple compression straps, bungy cords.
airlines provide "backpack bags" which are the perfect size
touring gear. You must however prepare your
bundle to stand securely
as one piece before
inserting into such a bag.
- The rear panniers can
generally form the base of your bundle by
them together. Front panniers can be stacked on top,
followed by tent, sleeping bag etc. You'll want to practice this at
home to ensure you have the right amount of
- You can leave one LIGHT item on your bicycle
rear rack, provided it is
securely fastened. But
this is not recommended.
- Once you have strapped
yourself a big bundle, you then (try to) fit it
the backpack bag, after which, you make liberal use of tape to
"giftwrap" the bag so that you have strong tape preventing
ripping if someone lifts it by holding edge
of bag only.
- You do not
necessarily need to bring the bagged bike with you in the
check-in lineup if it is long. In such cases, you can leave it in a
very obvious place that will be visible to the
check-in agent. (and
visible to you as you progress
through the line).
- As you put your big bundle onto the
scale, you also mention that you
have a bicycle (and
point to it). The agent may ask you how much it
weights (you can give an estimate).
- The agent will
either give you the luggage tag and ask you to put it
on yourself or she will leave the check-in area to affix it
- There are two ways to affix the luggage tags
on the bag
-either over the top tube between seat and
-or saddling the top tube so that one part
of the tag is visible
whether the bike is laying one
side or the other.
bicycle will almost never go in through the normal luggage belts
and will be handled as oversized luggage.
airports have a special belt for such luggage, at which point the
check-in agent will direct you to it.
- Some airports
have an area with a big cart when you can just deposit
the luggage there. If you are not in a hurry, you may wish to wait
an agent to come to ensure your bike is OK and
that the agent knows
which flight you're going
- Some airports have no facilities for oversized
luggage, and the
check-in agent will call for a
luggage handler to come up and get your
- In much smaller airports, you may be asked to bring
your bike to the
- After you
have cleared security are at your gate area, don't look
outside. You might see your bikes being loaded onto the aircraft :-)
Generally, bicycles are loaded as "loose"
luggage in a separate
compartment from the large
luggage containers. Sometimes, the bikes
on top of the luggage in a container.
- Bags will
prevent scratches and loose stuff on your bike from being
lost. They won't prevent serious damage. On the other hand, they
greatly facilitate the manual handling and make it extremely obvious
to the handlers that they cannot throw those
- Bikes almost never
arrive through normal luggage belts. You should
around for signage for oversized luggage (or ask someone). There
is either a large belt for such luggage, or they just bring them out
through some door that leads directly to the luggage
Bikes often arrive late, but this is
not always the case. You need to
keep an eye on both
the luggage belt for your bundle and the oversized
- Once you get your pushbike, you can find
a quiet area where you can
re-assemble your bike. If
you are experienced, you can even do this
customs hall (at least partially) so that you can easily
roll all your luggage on the bike instead of having to carry the big
luggage bundle and a bagged bike.
you plan to re-use your bag, you should carefully remove the
luggage tag from the bag before removing the bike.
Carefully unroll the tape at the twisted end and you can then roll
your bike out the same way you sent it in.
carefully fold the bag.
- Folded bags fit neatly
between the rear rack and the sleeping
However, bear in mind that bags make for a slippery surface
for the tent/sleeping bag so make sure that the bungy or compression
straps are holding the bundle tightly.