Packing bikes for airplanes

This Wednesday it will be 2 weeks until we leave for Belgium.  

The British Airways bike policy:

We will accept non-motorised bicycles up to 190cm (75in) in length, provided they are packed in a recognised bicycle bag.

Please ensure that you:

  • pack the bike in a protective case or bag
  • remove the pedals or fix them inwards
  • fix the handlebars sideways
  • deflate the tyres to reduce the risk of damage

So, how to pack our bikes for the airplane…

1) Get a bike shop to pack them in boxes.  

2) Pack them ourselves in boxes: http://travellingtwo.com/resources/packingyourbike.  

3) Pack them in bags like this guy: http://www.twowheeltravelblog.com/2012/10/25/how-to-fly-with-a-bike-cheap-and-easy-method/

Option number 3 is the most appealing as it involves the least amount of taking apart and reassembly of bike and is the cheapest.  The British CTC website (no idea what CTC stands for) says BA accepts the plastic bags as of 2013: http://www.ctc.org.uk/cyclists-library/bikes-public-transport/bikes-air, and gives helpful hints on how to safely back your bike.  Though it seems a bit nerve-racking to trust that a plastic bag will keep your bike safe from Seattle to London, London to Brussels, I’ve yet to find a horror story.  In fact, most people said that their bike was treated even more carefully because the handlers could see what it was.  Though one website cast doubt on whether or not BA accepts them as proper packing material, a review of the bags on Wiggle.com says that as of August 6th, 2014, BA did take them: http://www.wiggle.com/ctc-plastic-bike-bag/.  

However, this fellow on http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/711136-taking-your-bike-plastic-bag-plane-update.html has an interesting perspective:

I was a baggage handler as well, for about 4 years. What your friend said is true in some cases, but “they” are not all the same. There are many handlers who take great care with the handling of luggage, and there are others who are notorious for throwing things around and cramming them in the cargo bays using the old “kick” method. Which type you’re likely to get is a throw of the dice.

The airlines put a lot of pressure on the handlers to get the plane loaded up fast and out of the gate to avoid delays. Turn-around time, delays, made-up time, and all of that ends up in management reports and in certain publications. Some baggage handlers will sacrifice the kid gloves in the interest of on-time performance or making up time on an already delayed flight. If the plane is pushed back late due to luggage – they hear about it immediately. On the other hand, if your bike and some of the luggage gets a little banged up during the process, it’s likely they’ll never hear a word about it.

Besides baggage handlers, there’s also the prospect of turbulence possibly turning a cargo bay into something akin to a giant clothes dryer.

Most airlines that I know of have a “limited liability” policy for your bike, or any luggage that’s in a soft-sided case or cardboard box, and presumably a plastic bag, meaning they are not responsible for damage in transit. That being the case, I think I’d want all the protection I can reasonably get for it. EDIT: But, to each his/her own, of course.

Think I’m going to talk to some people at the bike shops around town some more before I make the call.  

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