Author Topic: Airplane Travel  (Read 3600 times)

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Offline LARRYL05

Airplane Travel
« on: August 09, 2010, 09:45:36 pm »
I am heading to LA from New York in October and will be spending a week riding to San Francisco. I will then fly home from there. This is a first for me - flying with my bike. The bike part has been figured out. My bike store will help me box it up and Southwest Airlines will fly me and my bike to California. Now, how to carry my bike bags, helmet, water bottles etc. I do not have a tent to worry about as I will be staying in motels. I cannot take them in a suitcase as I will be flying home from a different area. Should I put them in a box and check them as luggage. I think to bulky to bring as carry on. Any suggestions???

Offline tsteven4

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2010, 08:37:46 am »
After many years we arrived at the following system.
We put the sleeping pad, tent poles, pot, stove, knife, any liquids in bottles > 3oz, stove, non-cycling shoes (e.g. crocs), water bottles, pump and a nearly empty front pannier in the bike box.  Make sure everything is tied or taped in in case the box gets ripped open.  Everything else, including sleeping bag and tent, goes in the rear panniers, which are snapped to each other.  Tools that aren't sharp under 7" can be carried on.  A strap that we normally use to tie stuff to the rear rack is used so the panniers can be carried over the shoulder without your hands.  This is our "carry on".  The other front pannier, which is also nearly empty, is our "personal item".  We wear the helmet, cycling shoes, rain jacket and a fair amount of our non-cycling clothes.  You CANNOT take any fuel for your stove.  While this system has not caused any issues with any airlines SWA did manage to drop one of our bikes exploding the box and bending a wheel on our most recent trip.  Good Luck.

Offline LARRYL05

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2010, 10:26:27 am »
Thanks for the response - I did not think of putting things in the bike box. My rear panniers are not that big - so I will use that as my carry on and the rest in the bike box. I am not bringing tent and cooking gear so that should work just fine. Now, I must admit I am not a person who cares what people think of the way I look, but you actually walk on the plane wearing your bike helmet? That is a great idea.

Offline rvklassen

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2010, 10:57:31 am »
Now, I must admit I am not a person who cares what people think of the way I look, but you actually walk on the plane wearing your bike helmet? That is a great idea.
Hmm, then I wouldn't have to worry about bumping my head in the doorway or on those monitors they have along the aisle in some planes....

Offline John Nelson

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2010, 11:21:50 am »
A helmet is pretty fragile when not on your head. Wearing it is the best way to keep it from being cracked. If you do pack it, put it in a sturdy box.

For one-way travel, I put the panniers in some disposable container that fits in the 62-inch rule. It can be a cardboard box, some old suitcase you no longer need or bought at a thrift store, or a cheap duffle bag.

If you pack your own bike, you can usually fit other stuff in the box with the bike. But if a bike shop packs it, it may be somewhat reluctant to put all this other stuff in as it complicates their job.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2010, 11:31:39 am »
I have used a suitcase from a thrift store ($7) and discarded it at the other end.  I have also bought a cheap duffel bag and put everything in that.  Both worked well.

I used cardboard boxes for my 2007 TA, but the airline (Continental) said they would not be responsible for damage to stuff in cardboard boxes (only loss).  They stamped that all over the boxes and made me sign something to that effect.  Everything got there fine though.

I find that I can fit everything except the bike and handlebar bag (personal item) in one suitcase, but taking one pannier as a carry on is an option if you can't fit everything in the checked bag.

On the train I have strapped panniers together into two bundles and carried them on.  I personally wouldn't do that on a plane though.

I try not to give them any excuse to not take the bike so I only pack the bike in the box and nothing else.  I also make sure that the box weighs less than 50 pounds, which could be a problem if you put much other stuff in the box.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2010, 11:40:55 am by staehpj1 »

Offline DaveB

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2010, 06:58:16 pm »
Be careful how much you add to the bike box.  Southwest is pretty reasonable but they, like all the others, have a weight limit and the overweight charges can be pretty eyepopping.  I believe the maximum is 50 pounds but check with SW.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2010, 07:57:10 am »
Be careful how much you add to the bike box.  Southwest is pretty reasonable but they, like all the others, have a weight limit and the overweight charges can be pretty eyepopping.  I believe the maximum is 50 pounds but check with SW.

I would be really careful because Southwest's policy says they don't take boxes over 80" (L+W+H) at all.  They seem to ignore that for bicycles, but if they decided to they could refuse to take the box.  I would not do anything that might draw extra scrutiny.  As a result I think it is prudent to keep the box as small and as light as possible and to not put anything but the bike in the box.

Since it doesn't seem too hard to fit everything else in one checked bag (and one carry on and a personal item if necessary) and since Southwest doesn't charge for the checked bag or carry on, I would advise not packing other stuff in the bike box.  You will probably be OK if you do but why push your luck?

Offline tsteven4

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2010, 09:17:26 am »
I agree about keeping the box reasonably light, but my reason is to make it easier to handle.  I hope that a light box will be treated more carefully than a heavy one.  The items I suggested loading in the box do not add much weight.  

The rules are covered in the airlines "Contract of Carriage".  You can get these from the airlines websites.  Sometimes they are a bit ambiguous.  I would recommend you are familiar with the Contract of Carriage for your airline as i) ticket agents usually are not and often tell you erroneous information ii) to help resolve any issues with a gate agent.

For SWA their website says:
Quote
Non-motorized Bicycles, including Bike Friday and Co-Pilot, will be accepted in substitution of a free piece of checked baggage at no additional charge provided the bicycle is properly packaged and the box containing the bicycle fits within the 62-inch sizing limit and weighs 50 lbs or less . (Maximum weight is 50 pounds and maximum size is 62 inches (length + width + height) per checked piece of luggage). The handlebars, kickstand, and pedals must be removed and placed inside the box. A $50.00 each-way charge applies to bicycles that don’t meet the above criteria. Bicycles packaged in a cardboard box or soft-sided case will be transported as a conditionally accepted item.

The contract of carriage in section 7(g) makes an exception for bicycles:
Quote
g. Special Items
The items listed below shall be acceptable for Carriage as Checked Baggage upon the Passenger's compliance with the special packing requirements and payment of the applicable One-way charge.
(1)
Bicycle (defined as nonmotorized and having a single seat) properly packed in a bicycle box or hardsided case larger than 62 inches in total dimensions will be accepted as Checked Baggage. Pedals and handlebars must be removed and packaged in protective materials so as not to be damaged by or cause damage to other Baggage. Bicycles packaged in cardboard or softsided cases will be transported as conditionally accepted items as outlined in Section 7h.

We used to check the remainder in a cardboard box, but now as I mentioned we carry it on.  I feel it is one less thing for the airlines to lose.  I have done box/carry on method I outlined many times (10 times post 9/11) without difficulty, other than a damaged bike 1x, and two lost bikes 1x.  The lost bikes were found after two hours.  The location of the lost bikes was resolved in part because I had seen them loaded on the plane, I think it is worth watching from the gate.  My only concern with this method would be the carry on size restrictions and your ability to meet them (or slide by).  For SWA this is
Quote
Southwest Airlines limits carryon bag dimensions to 10x16x24 inches.
 IMO this is the best argument for the extra box/suitcase method, but it has never been an issue for us.  As a back up you likely could gate check your panniers, but on some airlines their will be an additional charge.  We have never had to do this.

Wearing your helmet on is a great conversation starter with passengers, TSA, etc.  It explains why you are appear a bit odd, and people generally respect/admire/envy you for your adventure.

A box that is a bit bigger will make a large difference in how hard it is to pack.  For example uline has a 56x10x32 box,  http://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-15111/Corrugated-Boxes-200-Test/56-x-10-x-32-FOL-Side-Loading-Corrugated-Boxes-275-lb-test  They are a bit pricey considering the minimum order and shipping, but it is a nice size.  Be aware that some airlines have an upper limit on L+H+W.  The upper limits I have seen are in the range of 109-114 inches.  SWA does not appear to state an upper limit for bicycles.

Here are some examples of the bike in the box.  The wider box makes it a bit easier on the front wheel.  Note the home made wooden spreader through the front wheel, the fork spreader, and the removed rear derailleur.







« Last Edit: August 11, 2010, 09:27:38 am by tsteven4 »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2010, 09:49:50 am »
SWA does not appear to state an upper limit for bicycles.
Southwest says:
"Effective June 17, 2009, overweight
items from 51 to 100 pounds and oversized items in excess of 62 inches but not more than 80
inches
(e.g.; surfboards, bicycles, vaulting poles) will be accepted for a charge of $50 per item.
"
and
"Non-motorized Bicycles, including Bike Friday and Co-Pilot, will be accepted in substitution of a free
piece of checked baggage at no additional charge provided the bicycle is properly packaged and the
box containing the bicycle fits within the 62-inch sizing limit and weighs 50 lbs or less . (Maximum
weight is 50 pounds and maximum size is 62 inches (length + width + height) per checked piece of
luggage). The handlebars, kickstand, and pedals must be removed and placed inside the box. A $50.00
each-way charge applies to bicycles that don’t meet the above criteria. Bicycles packaged in a
cardboard box or soft-sided case will be transported as a conditionally accepted item.
"
and
"The items listed below shall be acceptable for Carriage as Checked Baggage upon the Passenger's compliance with the special packing requirements and payment of the applicable One-way charge.
(1)
Bicycle (defined as nonmotorized and having a single seat) properly packed in a bicycle box or hardsided case larger than 62 inches in total dimensions will be accepted as Checked Baggage. Pedals and handlebars must be removed and packaged in protective materials so as not to be damaged by or cause damage to other Baggage. Bicycles packaged in cardboard or softsided cases will be transported as conditionally accepted items as outlined in Section 7h.
"

My read of that is that they imply that they will take a box over 80", but do not specifically waive the 80" limit even for bicycles.  In practice they apparently do, and I have checked my bike in a box over 80" without an issue.  That said, I think if the clerk wanted to it would be easy for them to say no to a box over 80".  Because of that I try to tread lightly with weight, box size, and box contents.  Using a really big box, loading it too heavy, or putting much other than the bike or things that are specifically bicycle accessories just seems like a bad idea to me. 

Offline valygrl

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2010, 08:43:48 pm »
You realize the prevailing wind is from the Northwest, meaning LA-SF = headwind?  If there's no very strong reason otherwise, I would suggest riding from SF to LA.  (I've done both)

Offline indyfabz

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2010, 08:34:29 am »
"The location of the lost bikes was resolved in part because I had seen them loaded on the plane, I think it is worth watching from the gate."

I do that every time I fly with a bike and for each leg of the journey.

In addition, one airline I flew scanned each piece of luggage as it was loaded on the plain.  The agent at the gate scanned my claim check and determined that the bike had been loaded.  It's worth asking about if you miss seeing your bike being loaded.

maha22

  • Guest
Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2010, 06:07:07 am »
I don't know how many destinations you need but Expedia does have two destination packages. But if you need more than that, you might be out of luck. If you don't want to go through all the stuff with booking everything individually you could go to a travel agent

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[Links to unrelated commercial sites removed by F L Hiltz]
« Last Edit: August 13, 2010, 06:47:42 am by FredHiltz »

Offline LARRYL05

Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2010, 11:05:41 am »
Thanks to everyone for all the great comments. You can always depend on fellow bike riders to be helpful.
•   So wearing the helmet as I get on the plane is a go – I agree it will be a great conversation starter and I will explain why a guy is walking on a plane in bike shorts holding panniers.
•   I do like the idea of going to a thrift store and picking up an old suitcase to carry everything, now just have to find a thrift shop in San Fran for trip home
•   My bike store is going to pack up my bike for me. I will have to find a bike store in San Francisco to do the same for me coming home, or at least get a bike box so I can pack it. Anyone recommend a bike store in San Francisco.
•   I will keep the bike box as light as possible to make it harder for the airline to hassle me and make it easier to carry.
•   Tsteven4 – thanks for taking all the time sharing the pictures of a boxed bike. This is new for me and I am looking forward to learning all these tips.
•   Direction of trip – I read with interest that valygrl stated that the winds come from Northwest. I did some research and did not think that was going to be a problem in October. Does anyone have wind info? I think the climbs are the same either way you go. I picked the LA to SF direction because San Francisco area seems so much prettier than LA area, wanted to ride and end in the beauty of San Francisco. Airline tickets already bought so going to keep it this way unless someone gives me very strong reason why I should change.
Besides the fun this trip will be, it is all in preparation for a cross country trip some day. Last year I did the C&O canal with Adventure Cycling – that was my first lesson in using a tent. This spring I did a one week trip from Long Island to Boston to Cape Code to Rhode Island and back home – that was a motel trip. Love every minute of it.

Offline katekosar

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Re: Airplane Travel
« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2010, 03:46:28 pm »
The new contract of carriage is dated July 28, 2010, and specifically states that (iv) With the exception of wheelchairs, mobility aids, and other assistive devices used by a Qualified Individual with a Disability, Carrier will not accept as Baggage any item having outside measurements (i.e., the sum of the greatest outside length plus height plus width) that exceed 80 inches or that weigh more than 100 pounds.

Too bad.  Those big bike boxes coulda held my Dutch commuter bike, which I can't seem to shove in a regular bike box without thoroughly dismantling her.