Cycling is a great way to discover the world, while immersing yourself in a region, its landscapes, and its people.
Here's what you need to know if you want to hop on a plane with your bike.
If you want to bring your bike on a plane, it'll need to be stored in a special bag or box.
You can't get away with putting it in just any old suitcase. Many manufacturers specialize in bike storage, such as Thule, EVOC or the Quebec brand Biknd, and they offer the appropriate storage equipment that combines impact resistance and relative maneuverability - at least on the flat surfaces of the airport.
There are two types of bicycle luggage:
- The rigid box, with a hard outer shell;
- The carrying bag, with a soft outer shell
This kind of luggage is bought in specialized shops. If some of your customers aren't ready to invest in luggage, they can also rent the same product in-store.
It is also possible to choose the cardboard box option. But, unlike suitcases, they do not offer a very high level of protection. The bike is exposed to shocks and breakage during handling at the airport.
In any case, the bicycle luggage must meet certain criteria set by the airlines, especially regarding the final weight, including the bike. For both Air Canada and Air Transat, the maximum weight allowed is 32 kg (70 lbs) .
Air Canada imposes a maximum size (length, width, height) of 115 inches (292 cm). No more precise indications on the maximum dimensions required are detailed on the Air Transat website.
What do you pack?
The bike, of course! But not as is, no matter how you try to fit it. Carefully disassemble and remove parts such as pedals, wheels and saddle. Here's an easy procedure to follow:
- Partially deflate the tires
- Unscrew the handlebar, set it aside and attach it to the frame.
- Unscrew also the derailleur, major (and often expensive) part of the machine
- Place bike protections, such as styrofoam pipe insulation or bubble wrap, to cushion any potential shocks
- Also bring tie wraps to prevent the pieces from banging during the journey and getting damaged
If your client isn't quite sure how to do all this, advise him or her to visit a local bike shop, where the mechanic can help. Just don't go at the very last minute—cycling is a popular sport!
With 32 kg allowed, there are a few other biking essentials to cross off the packing list:
- Cycling clothes: You'll save space in your luggage, and you'll need them for cycling adventures
- Cycling accessories, like lights, a bell, or an odometer
- Mechanical tools necessary for the maintenance or repair of the bicycle
There is a risk, however, to put everything in the hold, especially if your luggage arrives late to destination. Some experts prefer to put all their equipment and clothing in their cabin luggage so they're not caught off guard, but everybody is different.
Two things to avoid
The gas cartridges (CO2) that serve to inflate the tire after a puncture. They are also simply prohibited in flight, both in the cabin and hold.
The bike helmet due to changes in atmospheric pressure. The protective foam tends to crack under its effect. It is therefore recommended to take the helmet with you into the pressurized environment of the cabin.
As for electric bikes, which are becoming increasingly popular, they are not allowed as checked baggage. The only way to get them to destination is through the cargo service of the airlines.
How much will it cost?
Regardless of destination, the cost of handling a bicycle baggage is between $56.50 to $59 ($50 before taxes) on Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge flights, as well as Air Canada Express operated by Jazz, Sky Regional, Air Georgian and Exploits Valley Air.
But, there may be a supplement, according to the carrier's website, if "the total number of your baggage (bicycle + number of baggage to be checked) exceeds the allowable allowance according to your type of fare, a checked baggage supplement applies, in addition to a fixed handling charge."
The cost of bicycle luggage is $50 for flights between Canada and destinations in the South and to the United States and within Canada, and $75 for flights to Europe .
For a group of 10 or more who travel with bicycles, Air Transat recommends that you be contacted prior to departure as special arrangements may be required and additional charges may apply.
Since Nov. 1, 2018, Air Transat has been allowing passengers to pre-pay for the transportation of their bicycle to ensure they have space on board, through their call center at 1-877-TRANSAT. No additional payments are required at the airport, making the check-in process faster and easier.
Whether with Air Canada or Air Transat, it is recommended that you book and pay for your luggage as soon as possible at the time of purchase.
Via its website, Air Transat states that "the advance payment of the baggage fees must be made at least 24 hours before departure... As space is limited, it is highly recommended that passengers pay in advance for the transport of their bike (up to 72 hours before departure)."
Air Canada advises the same, stating:
"You are invited to register your sports equipment at least 24 hours before the departure of your flight by contacting Air Canada Reservations, Air Vacations or your travel agent. Please note that advance registration of sports equipment does not guarantee that we will be able to accept every item on board your flight. Please confirm with an agent at the airport at the time of check-in."
Although Sunwing does not specify dimensions, its website does state that irregular items, such as bicycles, are subject to inspection at the check-in counter. All equipment must be securely packed in a rigid or hard-shell container specifically designed for storage in the cargo hold.
A limited release form must be signed at check-in. The airline also advises that its transfer vehicles in-destination won't always have room for bikes, so travellers might have to pay for an additional vehicle to transport the bike(s).
Effective March 11, 2019, a handling fee of $50 applies to any sporting equipment. The maximum length accepted is 3 m (118 in.) for any sports item, including bikes. A maximum of one bicycle and one helmet are allowed per guest.
According to WestJet, in order to come onboard, bicycles exceeding the dimension of 292 cm (115 in.) are subject to oversize baggage fees. A length of 3m (118 in.) is not accepted
A good alternative: rent on site
If despite all these tips, your customer feels that they can do without bringing their own bike, renting in destination is always the best option. There are plenty of bike shops to choose from, all over the world!
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