Flying with a bike the easy way
Flying with a bike for the first time, like anything, is daunting. It definitely was for us as we embarked on our first trip overseas with our bikes. We had lots of questions about how it all worked. Would the airlines charge us a lot to check our bikes, how do we pack them, what was the weight allowance, and many more? That was back in 2013 and since then we have flown with our bikes many times, both internationally and domestically. This page takes you through the basics of flying with a bike to help you with your questions and benefit from our experience.
First things first. The good news is that all airlines will allow you to check your bike as luggage with the exception of 1 or 2. Each airline sets its own policy when it comes to checking bikes that include cost, weight allowance, dimension allowance, packing, and booking. Our Airline Bike Fee table lists 118 airlines and their policies for flying with a bike.
The cost of flying with a bike
Flying with a bike is not necessarily an expensive undertaking. Many airlines allow you to check your bike as part of your standard luggage allowance meaning your bike costs nothing. The fees on airlines that do charge for bikes range from US$30 to US$350. Fees are charged for each leg of your flight, so a return ticket will mean paying the fee for the outward leg and return leg. You need to make sure your bike is not overweight or oversize, otherwise excess luggage fees will apply. This gets very expensive.
Airline policies for bikes
Each airline sets its own policy for checking bikes. Their policies will include information about the weight of your bike, the dimension of your bike box, and how it should be packed. It is crucial that you understand what the rules are for the airline you are flying with. This will save you any problems at the check-in counter and possibly additional fees as well. If your airline charges a fee for your bike it is usually cheaper to do this at the time of booking. If you wait until you get to the airport the fee is likely to be higher.
Many airlines also require that you advise them that you will be flying with a bike. In some instances, they need to approve your bike before your ticket is booked. In our opinion, the biggest mistake people make when flying with a bike is that they don’t fully understand the airline policy. If you turn up to check in with an overweight or oversize bag there are going to be problems. We highly recommend speaking to the airline if you are unsure of what their policy means. It will save you stress and possibly additional fees later on.
Packing your bike for air travel
To check your bike on an airline it must be packed as you would other luggage. There are four options to pack a bike for flying, a cardboard bike box, a hard-shelled bike box, a soft-shelled bike bag, or plastic wrap. All airlines will accept the first three options while some airlines may reject bikes wrapped only in plastic. Airlines generally require you to turn handlebars sideways, remove pedals and deflate tires. For more information about the different types of cases head to our Bike Box Basics page which goes into more detail about this.
Other considerations when flying with a bike
A couple of other points that often come up when talking about flying with a bike are bike lube and CO2 canisters. Bike lube can be brought on board an aircraft as long as it is not flammable. Check your bottle to see if it has a flammable mark on it, no mark and it is good to go.
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. Again it comes down to checking the policy of the airline you plan to fly with.
Head over to our Traveling with a bike page for links to all our detailed articles about traveling with your bike. Whether you plan to fly with your bike, catch a train, or ship it somewhere we have you covered for how it’s done.