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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: How to fly with your bike

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.

Materials You'll Need
Upon Arriving at Airport
Preparing the Bicycle
Fitting the Bicycle into Bag
Packing your Touring Gear
Checking In
After Check-in
Upon Arrival


-  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
   bundle. For 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).

-  You 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.
   Generally, all 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 airlines
   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
   must almost always be removed to fit in airline boxes.


-  You will need to have the tool to remove your pedals as well as loosen
   the handlebar 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 your
   pedals were tightened with a large wrench, it is unlikely you will be
   able to unscrew them with an allen key.

-  Packing tape. You can generally borrow the orange packing tape from a
   check-in agent. Or you can purchase a disposable of transparent
   packing 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.


-  You must pack everything before you can check-in. Sometimes, you need
   to go 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 packing material.

-  You can expect (but not count on) airline providing you with:
   -bicycle bag or box
   -backpack bag
   -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 something else.

   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
   the 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.

-  You should have clear identification as well as destination city
   affixed to your bike so that if the luggage tag gets damaged, they can
   still figure out where to send it.


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
   the bottom.

-  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 clearly/easily
   visible so that unpacking will be easier (especially if you plan to
   re-use the bag).

-  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
   necessary, and not recommended if you wish to re-use the bags).


-  If traveling on the 2 piece of luggage system, this requires
   imagination, as well as multiple compression straps, bungy cords.

-  Most airlines provide "backpack bags" which are the perfect size for
   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
   strapping 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 straps.

-  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
   into the backpack bag, after which, you make liberal use of tape to
   "giftwrap" the bag so that you have strong tape preventing bag from
   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 herself.

-  There are two ways to affix the luggage tags on the bag
   -either over the top tube between seat and handlebar,
   -or saddling the top tube so that one part of the tag is visible
   whether the bike is laying one side or the other.


-  Your bicycle will almost never go in through the normal luggage belts
   and will be handled as oversized luggage. 

-  Some 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 for
   an agent to come to ensure your bike is OK and that the agent knows
   which flight you're going on.

-  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
   are loaded 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 around.


-  Bikes almost never arrive through normal luggage belts. You should
   look 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 makeup room.
   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
   luggage area.

-  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
   inside the 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.

-  If 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
   bag/tent. 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.