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Monday, March 26, 2012

PSA: United is now a suitable airline for flying with bicycles

I used to fly United Airlines with my bike all the time. But in 2008, United and Lufthansa jointly raised bike carriage fees to $250 each way. What that meant for me was that I stopped flying United on my bike tours. I wrote a letter in 2009 to United that it cost them 4 $1000+ plane tickets to Japan to continue this policy, but to no avail.

Well, this year, United merged with Continental airlines, which means that they've revised their bike carriage policy to be fairer to cyclists. Bikes now count as one piece of baggage as long as they fit in under 50 pounds and under the linear inches rule.

I've flown United often with bicycles, and they were not the best, but far from the worst. They frequently also had the lowest fare, so I'm glad to have them back in the "good for bicyclist" column on the airline.

These frequent changes in baggage policy is one reason why Independent Cycle Touring doesn't list specific airlines that are bike friendly or not. That information properly belongs to the internet and my blog.

Kudos to Arturo Crespo for telling me about the United merger and the impact thereof.


Maxomenos said...

The one caveat is that UAL (in the fine print on the website) says to contact them before trying to carry a bike on a United Express flight. This makes sense as U Express uses many different types of smaller aircraft & these may have different cargo & baggage restrictions. The problem, at least as of 20 March 2012, is that nobody at UAL was able to tell me whether or not I will be able to travel on specific flights on given dates with a properly packed bike that meets the published size & weight limits, nor could they tell me how to find the answer. Rather than risk driving 200+ miles to the airport & learn that the bike can't be carried on my flight I decided to send it in advance via one of the big freight carriers (for about the same cost).

DJC said...

"Bikes now count as one piece of baggage as long as they fit in under 50 pounds and under the linear inches rule."

ANY baggage under 50 pounds and 62 linear inches simply counts as one piece of luggage. That has been the case on United (and every other airline to my knowledge) for many years. The problem is that typical bicycles can in no way fit into a piece of baggage of 62 linear inches. So a normal bicycle will still cost $100 each way on UAL.

If you want to fit into 62 linear inches, buy an S&S coupled bicycle from Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia. I have purchased two coupled bikes from them and they are outstanding.

Piaw Na said...

Mark Ivey, Yana Ivey, Brooks Sizemore, and I managed to get 4 bikes over to Japan using the 62 linear inches rule in 2008, no problem. The old rules United had were $250/bike each way, which meant that we flew ANA rather than United that year.

If you think it's impossible to get bikes packaged under those rules, you probably need to buy my book.

DJC said...

I probably won't buy your book, and I dispute your claim. If you were able to get under 62", then United would've carried your bikes for free.