Saturday, February 6, 2010
BIKES, BAGS AND AERO PLANES
Another year and it gets harder and harder to be able to travel with a bicycle.
Fees for taking a bike have gone from nothing to depending on the air carrier a whopping $300.00 each way. I understand the airlines need to be profitable though the nice blurb that some of them have written on their web page for traveling with sporting goods can only be viewed as funny.
“We want you to be able to continue your sports activities even when you are traveling.
For this reason, (airline name) offers special excess baggage rates for sports baggage.”
So a one way fee of $150-300 dollars is ‘special’. Can you hear me laughing….
So the search is always to find the airline with both the most reasonable airfare combined with the most reasonable fee for hauling a bike to the start of my next tour.
Often the issue isn’t that the policy and fee schedule that is plain on carrier “A” but that with what is called “code share” that puts you on two airlines planes using one ticket to get to your destination. Airline “B” has a different set of rules that use a totally different fee schedule and ignore the policies of Airline “A”.
A biking friend ran into this problem after a tour in New Zealand. Arriving at LAX the airline that was to take him from LAX to Portland charged him $75 dollars extra to bring his bike. Even though he knew that charge did not apply he was forced to pay it. Arguing with the counter folks was shortly seen as a waste of time as their knowledge of their own rules was only based on memory. He accepted the charge that was refunded by the airline after he returned home. He now also carries a copy of the rules concerning bicycles for each carrier he flies with as an added precaution from this lesson learned.
When confronted with a bike rule that was as easy to understand as the IRS tax code I have sent off an email to the airlines customer service asking direct questions of the rules and fees. It was nice to have their corporate email reply in my hand as I checked my bicycle in. They read the email and passed my bike on without a single word.
There are several ways to box you bike for airline travel. Cardboard, hard shell, canvas bag, wrapped in plastic are all the common choices. I have always opted for a hard shell case with the thinking that very few people travel under the old adage of half the clothes, twice the money vacation rule. If the airline allows one bag to weigh fifty pounds then aunt bertha is going to use each and every ounce. Can my cardboard box or canvas bag handle that crushing weight? Do I want to discover the answer to that question at the baggage carousel in Madrid?
Asking around at the local bike shops I found that several had hard shell cases that they were willing to rent, Nice to use on the trip, even nicer not to have to store at home when the case is not being used.
Today is a good day to ride.