Just because you choose to fly the friendly skies does not mean you must leave your trusty bicycle at home. In fact, many cyclists include their bikes as part of their standard packing list. Before flying with a bike, learn how to fight high fees for airline baggage to make the trip a more enjoyable, and less expensive, one.
A bicycle is a large item so airlines will most likely charge extra to take it on a flight. To make things more complicated, this charge varies by airline. Many carriers require the bicycle to be packed into a specially designed case that is padded and hard-sided. Some permit bikes without a case as long as pedals are removed, handle bars are secured sideways, and the cycles are packaged in a cardboard box, plastic foam, or other packing material that will prevent damage.
In most cases, a bicycle counts as a checked bag and relevant weight limits apply. However, an overweight baggage fee is typically not charged for a bike. Some airlines will not assess a bike fee if the cycle and its container weigh less than 50 pounds and dimensions are less than 62 inches. Though bicycles may be accepted on domestic and international flights, some restrictions may apply.
JetBlue and Southwest charge a $50 fee each way to take a bike on a domestic flight. Southwest allows a bike meeting certain requirements to be substituted for one piece of the free checked bag allowance. On JetBlue, an $80 fee is charged each way on international flights. Bikes are not permitted on its flights to or from the Dominican Republic.
US Airways charges a bike fee of $200 each way, counting the item as checked baggage. Delta charges $150 each way to all regions except Europe, North Africa, and Brazil. The one-way fee for travel to and from Brazil is $75 and travel to and from North Africa or Europe incurs a $150 or 105 euro fee based on location.
To avoid extra charges when flying with a bike, consider taking a cycle that meets the non-oversize baggage requirements. If you are flying internationally or in business class, contact the airline to see if it will waive some baggage fees. Keep in mind that flying on regional aircraft may not permit the bike to tag along on the journey.