Cost of transporting your bicycle by air

Flying within the borders of South Africa with your bicycle generally, but not always, is free. Certainly for the big races eg Argus, 94.7, Cape Epic the airlines are lenient. Although they may stipulate that you bring your bike to the airport a few days before the event and collect from a large warehouse at the destination airport. In South Africa the airlines are entitled to charge you R250 for transporting a bicycle no matter what the weight.

I recently spoke to someone flying with El Al to Israel and his bicycle will be transported free. People flying overseas from South Africa on SAA will never pay more than R250 – and then often that fee is waived. We checked out 53 random airline sites and found that they all have different rules and measures when it comes to transporting sporting equipment. Most are specific in stating that a bicycle must be boxed to be transported by them. (They do not want the hassle of a broken bike either) Weight allowances and rates differ from airline to airline, literally from travel free to charges of $100 in the USA. Airline baggage regulations for bicycles are a moving target and the airlines can be very inconsistent. The airlines’ argument for surcharges are, bicycles require special handling and are quite bulky causing luggage holds to be loaded in very specific ways. This is also true for large musical instruments and very large dogs in kennels. Many airlines have specific charges for other sporting equipment as well: golf bags, surfboards, ski equipment, etc. One of the websites we visited stated that one traveller going from Asia to Europe on Malaysia airline paid nothing extra for his bike going, but was charged Euro 483 on the return. Another email on the same site says two people had just flown from the U.S. to Spain and weren't charged and were told there was no charge for taking a bicycle trans-Atlantic if it was one of two pieces of checked baggage.

Generally the check in staff are not sure of the rules themselves and if you treat them right they seem to be able to use some discretion and usually do not charge. We have never yet had to pay to transport our bicycles in the BikeSafe.

Our advice in negotiation with the airlines is as follows

  1. Phone ahead and tell them you will be travelling with a bicycle
  2. If you are dealing with a travel agent make sure they sort out all the arrangements for you
  3. Make sure you have in writing a confirmation of what has been agreed upon when you arrive to check in
  4. When you arrive to check-in tell them you phoned ahead, explain and show letter
  5. Be friendly and polite but not subservient and overly compliant. You are entitled as a sportsperson to travel with your equipment
  6. You are usually allowed 2 pieces of luggage in the hold and one piece to take on board with you. Rarely is your onboard luggage weighed – put extra heavy items into this luggage to make sure your BikeSafe is as light as possible. But do not put your “bombs” for inflating tyres or multitool into your hand luggage
  7. Enjoy your flight – it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that your bike is in the hold, safe and sound and totally protected

When you arrive at your destination and need to hire a car: the 3 least expensive hire cars are the Citi Golf, Corsa Lite and Toyota Tazz. You can pack 2 bikesafes into the Tazz and Corsa and one into the Golf.

11.11.2008. 12:57

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