Taking a bike on a plane in the USA
If you are planning on taking a bike on a plane in the United States for the first time you are probably wondering how it all works. In this article, we list 8 major US carriers and their policies for taking a bike on a plane. The good news is that over the past couple of years the major carriers have reduced the fees to check a bike as luggage and it is no longer prohibitively expensive. You now pay no more to take a bike than you would a standard piece of luggage. Budget airlines do charge more for a bike bag/case compared to a standard suitcase.
The good news is that all airlines in the USA will allow you to check your bike as luggage on both international and domestic flights. Each airline sets its own policy in relation to how much weight you are allowed, the price of luggage, and how large your bike bag is allowed to be. When checking your bike as luggage you will need to make sure it is packed in an appropriate bike bag or case and in accordance with the airline’s policy. Bikes are treated as a standard luggage item on Alaskan Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines, and a non-standard item on Frontier, Hawaiian, Jet Blue, and Southwest.
Understanding airline luggage policies for airlines in the USA
Before we dive into the airline policies specifically around taking a bike on a plane in the USA it is important to have a basic understanding of how airline luggage works in the USA. Thankfully all of the US airlines follow broadly the same principle in that you will be given a free luggage allowance for flights to international destinations and have to pay a fee for all luggage on domestic flights. Each airline has its own set of rules as to which routes attract a fee for luggage and which do not so it is important to have a look at their websites and check that information. But that gives you a basic idea and we will go into a bit more detail on some specific items.
If you are flying domestically within the USA you will need to purchase luggage to check your bags. Most airlines charge around $30 for the first piece of luggage and more for each subsequent piece. Each piece of luggage can weigh up to 50lbs and be a maximum of 62 linear inches in size. (Linear inches is simply the sum of the height, width, and depth.) Some airlines will waive the fees on luggage if you meet certain criteria such as having an eligible credit card, being an eligible frequent flyer, or being an active serving member of the military. Fees for luggage are not payable for premium economy, business class, and first-class tickets where they are offered.
For international flights on American-based airlines most tickets will be given a free luggage allowance which starts at 50lbs for economy class tickets. If you purchase a basic economy fare you might find that you have no free allowance, so be mindful of this before you book, especially if you are planning on taking a bike. Luggage allowances are higher for premium economy, business class, and first-class tickets.
The airlines and their policies
In this next section, we now dive into the policies about taking a bike on a plane for these 8 US-based carriers. The information is provided as a brief summary only and we recommend following the link to the airline’s web page if you are considering flying that particular airline.
Alaskan Airlines allows bikes, and other sporting equipment, as standard checked luggage provided each piece is packed in an appropriate case or bag for that equipment. The standard luggage fee for a bike bag/case is $30 as long as it weighs no more than 50lbs or is larger than 115 linear inches. The airline’s page on Special Baggage outlines the rule for bikes and sporting equipment.
American Airlines will allow you to check a bike as a standard piece of luggage provided it weighs no more than 50lbs and meets the dimension limits of 126 linear inches. The bike must be packed in a hard-sided case, bike bag or box designed to carry a bike. A fee of $30 is charged for a bike bag/case as the first piece of luggage if you are flying domestically. On international routes, a bike can be included in your standard luggage allowance for no additional fee. The Special Items and Sports Equipment page outlines the requirements for checking a bike and other sporting equipment.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines treats bikes as standard pieces of checked baggage. Bikes must be packed in an appropriate bike case or bag and not weigh more than 50lbs or have dimensions in excess of 115 linear inches. If the bike is not packed in a hard-sided case designed for bikes a limited liability release waiver form must be signed prior to flying. A fee of $30 is charged for the bike bag/case as the first piece of luggage if you are flying domestically. On international flights, your bike bag/case can be counted towards your free luggage allowance. The Sporting Equipment page on the airline’s website lists everything you need to know.
Frontier Airlines charges a separate fee of $75 to check a bike as luggage. Your bike bag/case must not weigh more than 50lbs or be larger than 110 linear inches. The airline does not make mention of any requirements in relation to how the bike must be packed. The Optional Services page on their website outlines the fees for bikes.
Hawaiian Airlines charges a fee of $35 to check a bike as luggage for flights to neighboring islands, $100 for flights to mainland USA and $150 on international flights. The bike must be packed in a hard-sided or soft-sided bike travel case or a cardboard box. The bike bag/case must not weigh more than 50lbs or be larger than 115 linear inches. You will find all the details on the bicycle page on their website.
jetBlue charges a $100 fee for bikes on both domestic and international routes. Bikes must be in either a hard-sided travel case or packed appropriately with handlebars turned sideways and pedals removed. The bike bag/case must not weigh more than 50lbs or have dimensions larger than 80 linear inches. The airline does have some restrictions regarding the destinations you can travel to with a bike. You will find all the information on their Sports Gear page.
Southwest will allow a bike as checked luggage on its flights for both domestic and international flights. A fee of $75 applies and the bike bag/case must weigh less than 50lbs and have dimensions no larger than 80 linear inches. Bikes not in a hard-sided case are treated as limited liability release items and you will need to sign an appropriate waiver. The airline’s Sports Gear page sets out its rules and policies for bikes and other sporting equipment.
United Airlines accepts bikes as checked luggage and treats them as standard pieces of luggage. Bikes must be packed in a sealed box with handlebars sideways and pedals removed. A fee of $30 applies for your bike bag/case as your first piece of luggage on domestic flights, while on international routes you can include your bike as part of the free luggage allowance. Your bike bag/case must not weigh more than 50lbs or be larger in dimension than 118 linear inches. You will find all the information on the Traveling with Sports Equipment page of the airline’s website.
More information about taking a bike on a plane
You can check out our full list of Airline fees for bikes where we list 118 different airlines and their rules for checking a bike. This includes airlines from all around the world in an easy-to-read table so you can easily compare options. The table is provided in both metric and American measurements.