Flying with a bicycle: Airline fees for bikes 2023
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Flying with a bicycle for the first time can be a daunting experience, and it definitely was for me! But with the right information and preparation, it’s not much different to flying with regular luggage. It’s important that before you book you carefully research the airline’s policy on transporting bicycles. Each airline sets its own rules for bringing a bicycle as checked luggage including allowable weight, allowable dimensions, additional fees (if any), and booking requirements. Airlines require you to pack your bicycle in an appropriate bag, box or case for protection.
I first experienced flying with my own bicycle in 2013 and have undertaken numerous flights since both internationally and domestically. I have used EVOC bicycle travel bags for some flights and a cardboard bicycle box for others depending on what we are doing at the end of our trip. The information contained in this article is based on what I have learned over the past 10 years of taking our bicycles on a plane.
This article is aimed primarily at how much it costs to when flying with a bicycle and the airline fees for bikes. To help you work out which is the best airline for you to fly with your bicycle I have researched 120 different airlines and provided the results in an easy-to-read table below. You will find out which airlines charge a fee and which do not, how big your bicycle box is allowed to be, what luggage weight allowance you are permitted, and whether or not you need to advise the airlines that you are bringing a bicycle. The table links to the relevant page of each airline so you can get more detail if you need to.
If you have previous experience flying with a bicycle then you might like to simply jump down to the Airline fees for bikes table and see which airline provides the best option for you. If it is your first time flying with a bicycle then I recommend reading through the common questions so you don’t have any nasty surprises.
Common questions about flying with a bike
Here is a list of 15 questions about flying with a bicycle that I have been asked over the years. This list of questions covers the majority of things that you need to know and be aware of when flying with a bicycle. I also have a more in depth article about flying with a bicycle based on my own experience of doing it.
1. Can I bring a bicycle on a plane?
The first question many people have when thinking about flying with a bike is can you check a bike on a plane? The simple answer is yes, the majority of airlines will allow you to carry a bike on both domestic and international flights as checked baggage. Each airline has its own rules about checking a bike as baggage so be sure to know what they are before you book.
The exception to this rule is electric bikes. Due to the size of the battery electric bikes are banned on commercial airlines. Some airlines do allow you to check the bike without the battery, but the majority simply ban them completely.
2. How much does it cost to fly a bike on a plane?
Airline fees for bikes vary greatly depending on the airline you fly with and their baggage policy. Many airlines charge nothing for a bike and allow it as part of your free checked allowance while others charge an additional fee for your bike. The fees for bikes on airlines that do charge range from US$40 to US$350 per leg of travel. If your bike is outside the weight and dimension limits set by the airline then excess charges will apply. An airline’s bike fee can be impacted by the class of ticket, loyalty program, or credit card membership.
My tip: If you are planning on traveling on an airline that charges a bike fee, make sure you pay the fee when you book your tickets to save some money. If you wait until you check in the bike fee will increase, sometimes significantly.
3. Can I put other luggage in my bike case?
Many airlines stipulate in their baggage policy that only the bike can be packed in the bike case. However, in my experience, my bike cases have never been checked and I have included other gear in with the bikes. When packing I also make sure that the total weight is a couple of kilograms below the checked baggage allowance so that it does not present any issues at check-in and I am not hit with an additional fee.
When I flew with Emirates Airlines I was able to check in multiple bags as long as the total weight was within the limit. This made it nice and easy to pack the bike bags with the bikes and include my other gear in a separate bag. This is not always the case though and some airlines will stipulate that you are only allowed one bag.
4. How do I book a flight with a bike?
The first step in booking a flight with a bike is to make sure you read the airline baggage policy in relation to bikes as the booking process varies between airlines. Some airlines will require you to notify them that you are bringing a bike when you book while others do not have any special requirements and the process is the same whether you bring a bike or not. If a fee is payable it is usually cheaper at the time of booking versus when you check in at the airport.
I have experienced both booking processing over the years. I flew with both Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airlines and simply made my booking as normal and turned up at the airport with my bike. When I flew EasyJet I booked and paid for my bike when I made the booking. I recently flew with Air France and had to gain permission from the airline that my bike could be carried. This process took 24hrs and once the bikes were approved my tickets were confirmed and I was all good to go.
5. Will my bike get damaged when flying?
A quick search online about damage to bikes when checked as baggage on planes will reveal a myriad of horror stories and may turn people away from the idea of flying with a bike. My experience has always been positive, and the bikes have arrived in perfect condition every time. I always take the time to pack the bikes well with lots of padding and protection to mitigate the chances of damage.
When flying with a bicycle I would also recommend good travel insurance to cover you in the event of damage to your baggage. So to answer the question, there is never no chance of damage but I suspect the number of bikes that are damaged by airlines is a small percentage of the overall number of bikes that fly around the globe on a daily basis.
6. Bike bag, bike box, or cardboard box? How do I pack a bicycle for flying?
Your bike will need to be packed in some sort of covering or box per the airline’s instructions before it is checked. There are broadly 3 options here, a plastic wrap, a soft-sided bike bag, or a hard-sided bike travel case. Airlines generally state that pedals should be removed, handlebars turned sideways and tires deflated before packing into the bag or case. If you plan to use plastic wrap, be mindful that some airlines will not accept a bike unless it is in a bike case or bag. Other airlines will allow a bike in plastic wrap but you will need to sign a waiver against damage to the bike.
How you pack your bike will also depend on the type of case you use. For example, some travel cases, like mine, require that the handlebars be removed completely to fit in the case. Other cases require handlebars to be turned sideways and others require no removal or moving of the handlebars. As long as your bike is well packed and the bag will do no damage to other luggage you should have no problems. Airlines know that commercial cases are designed to protect both the bike and other passengers’ luggage.
I have used both an EVOC bike bag and a cardboard bike box when flying with our own bikes as baggage. The cardboard box is great when you are cycle touring as you simply discard it at the end of your trip and grab a new one for the way back. It always takes longer than you think to pack the case or box for the first time, so allow some time to practice before you travel. If you are not comfortable with removing or turning handlebars have a chat with your local bike store and they will be able to assist.
7. Do airlines provide cardboard bike boxes?
Some, but not all, airlines will provide cardboard bike boxes for purchase at the airport. My recommendation is to check directly with the airline as they may offer this service at some airports but not others. You can also check directly at the airport you are flying from as the airport services may have cardboard bike boxes available for purchase.
I flew from Geneva airport and was able to purchase cardboard bike boxes from Swissport, the terminal services operator. Before leaving I researched the airport website and determined that this was possible. The box cost us €20 and was big enough for each of our bikes. You will need to remember that you will need to supply packing tape and anything you will use to protect your bike.
Another option for obtaining a cardboard bike box is to check with local bike shops in the city you are flying from. Often a bike shop will be able to provide you with a bike box free of charge. I recommend checking with bike stores before you leave home as many shops simply throw out their bike boxes as soon as they unpack the bike. If you get really desperate, you can make a bike case out of any cardboard box with some packing tape and a bit of ingenuity.
8. What are bike box dimensions for airlines?
Bike box dimension allowances change depending on the airline you choose to fly with. Some airlines quote a maximum length, while other airlines quote a linear length (W + H + L). Bike box dimension allowances based on linear range from 158cm to 320cm while those based on length only range from 180cm to 277cm. For those airlines that do not specify dimensions, I recommend contacting them directly before you book to clarify.
My EVOC bike travel case is a tapered design in that their dimensions are wider at the back of the bag than they are at the front. To make sure I don’t have any issues with the dimensions I always measure the widest point of the bag. In all my flights I have never had the dimensions of the bags and cases checked by the airlines.
9. How heavy can a bike box be when flying with a bike?
The weight allowance when checking your bike as luggage is set individually by each airline but will fall somewhere between 23kg and 32kg (50 lbs and 70 lbs). Class of ticket, airline policy, loyalty program membership, and flight route will all impact the weight allowance of your bike. Any bike box over 32kg (70 lbs) will be treated by most airlines as cargo and will not be permitted as checked luggage. This applies even if your luggage allowance exceeds this weight.
A cardboard box or plastic wrapping offers the lightest options if you are taking your bike as baggage. Remember to count the weight of your bicycles and bike bags when determining your total weight.
Once I have finished packing my bike, I always weigh it at home so I know it is under the allowable weight. My goal is always to be at least 2kg under my allowance. I figure this allows for any error in my weighing and ensures there are no questions at check in. So far it has worked well. I usually just use bathroom scales do weigh it.
10. Is it hard to fly with a bike?
Based on my own experience I would say it’s not hard to fly with a bike but it’s not as easy as flying without a bike. Getting around the airport with oversize baggage can be tricky, especially when getting on buses or trains between airport terminals. While these are usually designed with space for baggage, they are not always designed with oversize baggage in mind. Travelling with two people always makes it that little bit easier especially if you have to navigate stairs or bollards.
Another consideration when flying with a bike is getting to and from the airport, especially if you need to rely on public transport or a taxi. Busy public transport can be more difficult when you have a large bike bag with you and the average bike box will not fit in the boot of a standard car. None of these things are deal breakers but are worth considering.
I flew into Barcelona airport with my bike bag for a three-day visit. I didn’t want to ride the bike in Barcelona so I left the bikes at a luggage service at the airport. The fee for the service was the same amount as the fee for a taxi to and from the airport which meant it was easy to jump on the train into the city with a small backpack only.
My standard answer, when asked about flying with a bike, is that it’s definitely worth it if you will use your bike the whole time you are away. If your holiday is all about riding your bike, the extra hassle is worth it. If, however, you only plan to ride your bike for a small portion of your overall holiday, I suggest hiring a bike and leaving your bike at home.
11. How do I check in when flying with a bike?
I have always checked into our flight as normal when flying with a bike bag. The only difference I have ever experienced is that once the check-in process has been completed, I had to take my bike to an oversize luggage drop.
While it has not happened to me, I have heard of people who have been charged a fee for their bike when they arrived at the check in counter when they were not expecting one. My tip here is to make sure you read all the fine print about the bike fees and when they will or will not be charged. It could also be a good idea to either print off the page about bike fees from the airline’s website or have it bookmarked on your phone.
12. Where do I collect my bike bag at the end of the flight?
Bike boxes and cases will always arrive at an oversize luggage pickup point rather than the standard luggage carousel. The location of these varies from airport to airport but they are well-marked, and I have always found them easily.
13. Flying with a bike vs shipping a bike
A question that often comes up is whether it is better to travel with your bike on the plane with you or ship it to your destination instead. I have looked into this option before but for me, shipping a bike proved to be much more expensive than flying with a bike. Given so many airlines offer to take a bike as part of your normal baggage allowance and charge no fee, it is hard to justify paying a shipping company to take your bike. Even if the airline does charge a fee it is often much cheaper than the cost of shipping a bike.
However, there are a few instances where it may be better to ship your bike and not travel with it on the plane with you. Firstly, if you have a significant amount of luggage you might find yourself being charged an excess baggage fee. In this instance shipping your bike could be cheaper than the excess baggage fee. Secondly, it might simply be more convenient to ship your bike and have it ready and waiting at your destination for you. You don’t have to worry about hauling a large oversized bike bag or bicycle box around an airport and it makes transport planning that bit easier. Finally, if you compare the cost of shipping your bike to renting a bike at your destination you may find it works out cheaper to ship your bike.
14. Can I take bike lube with me on a plane?
As long as your bike lube is not flammable, there are no issues with it being packed in your checked luggage. Have a look at the bottle to ensure there is no flammable liquid symbol and as long as there is not, you are good to go.
15. Can I take co2 canisters with me on a plane?
CO2 canisters are a little different in that some airlines allow them and some don’t. The regulators for air travel allow up to 4 X 28g CO2 canisters on passenger aircraft but not all airlines accept them. For this one, it is important that you check the policy of the airline and see if they are allowed or not.
How to read the information in the table.
Before you dive into the table read the definitions of what each of the columns means.
Airline name – click on the link to be taken to the airline website page that includes the airline policy on flying with a bicycle.
Bike allowed free if with luggage allowances – this column identifies whether an airline charges a separate fee for bikes. Remember that for the bike (or any luggage) to be considered free it must be within the allowed weight and dimensions. If it is outside of these then normal excess baggage fees will apply.
Fee (per leg) – this is the fee that will be charged for flying with a bicycle. You need to consider that this fee is charged “per leg” so the fee will be doubled for a return flight.
Maximum dimension allowed for bike bag – this is designated as either linear or length. In the case of linear, you need to add together the length, height, and width of the bag/box and ensure it is less than the amount set. Where the limit is based on the length you need to make sure the longest side of the bag/box does not exceed the limit.
Maximum weight allowed for the bike – airlines set a maximum weight allowance for bikes which is set out in this column. The maximum weight for any single piece of luggage is 32kg and anything over this weight will not be accepted even if your total luggage allowance is above this. Some airlines set a maximum limit for bikes at 23kg even though an economy fare will allow you 30kg which is something to keep in mind.
Pre-booking required – there are quite a number of airlines that require you to advise them if you are planning on flying with a bicycle. Some require this at the time of booking while others stipulate it must be completed within a certain period of time prior to travel. If you do not do this your bike may not be allowed on board.
By clicking on the + button next to the airline name you can see the luggage allowances based on the fare type. Where an airline charges a fee for all luggage the columns are blank.
Check airlines and airfares
To help you with your choice of airline when flying with a bicycle you can head over to Skyscanner to see which airline gives you the best price for your proposed trip. I find it a great resource to quickly check prices on a proposed route as well as check to see which airlines actually fly on the route you choose. The search results show you the cheapest option, the fastest option, and the best option, which is a combination of the first 2. Once you click on a fare that suits you the site lists the different booking sites you can choose from to actually make the booking. In many instances, you still make the booking directly with the airline.
I have used Skyscanner extensively over many years and it is usually one of the first things I check when planning a flight, with or without our bicycles. It saves you lots of time by comparing hundreds of fares and airlines so you don’t need to head to multiple websites and do the research yourself. Note, if you do make a booking after clicking on the link, we earn a small commission from Skyscanner. This helps fund our website to continue to provide lots of free information about traveling with a bicycle.
Airline fees for bikes table
The table below shows all the measurements and weights in metric. If you would prefer to read the table with imperial measurements just click on the button below and you will see exactly the same information but in inches and pounds.
This table was last updated in April 2023 and is reviewed every few months. Please ensure you check with the airline directly before you book your travel to confirm that the rules have not changed in between updates.