On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who have travelled with Air India (you can share your experiences here).
Indian Airlines, Air India and Kolkatta International Airport
Flew Indian Airlines/Air India (the same company these days from Calcutta to Kathmandu return with bikes. No problem at either end. Join their frequent flyer program 'flying returns' before flying and you get an extra 10kg of luggage allowance!
Calcutta international airport has a 24 hour left luggage facility outside the terminal building (accross the parking lot near the taxi rank). As we were catching an early morning BA flight back to London we stayed at the international airport retiring rooms. Basic, but clean. To get a room (700Rs per person) go and see the airport manager (office on your right before you exit the international terminal). Rooms are on the first floor of the building and we had no problem storing our bikes there while we took a taxi into town to find something to eat.
Loire Valley Tour
Found on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello cycle tourers,
I returned Saturday from a fully loaded cycle tour of the Loire Valley in France.
First of all let me thank all the great people who helped me with the queries I had about campsites, tools bike boxes etc.
Now for the details:
1. Airline: We flew Air India from Newark airport. In the run-up to the flight we received much contrasting information about charges for bikes ranging from $200+ to free. When we presented our bikes at the ehck in desk the clerk said, leave them over there and did not charge us anything. On the flip side at Paris CDG, the desk fuhrer said she was going to charge until we produced an e-mail from AirIndia stating that bikes would be treated as luggage. So hats off to Air India for cheap flights, fast flights (5.5 hours to Paris from Newark), free bike handling and indian food as in-flight catering. And the bonus for weirdo's like me - a Bollywood flick to enjoy during the flight!!!
3. Boxes etc: We cycle/train to Newark airport so require boxes at the airport. Continental has bike boxes but much badgering was required before they would sell us them and then they tried to charge us $40 each - we badgered more and got the price to $20 each. Due to the investment in corrugated cardboard we decided to retain the boxes in France and ship the bikes home in them again (more of this later)
4. Les Trains and Le SERNAM: We took our boxed bikes to Gare Montparnasse the day we arrived. It was a Sunday so we stored them in left luggage. Next day we returned to ship them on SERNAM to Angers for the beginning of our tour. We were told by the helpful desk guy that we should buy our TGV tickets first as our bikes would be cheaper to ship. We did and it was. We arrived in Angers 3 days later and our bikes were there. We reassembled and shipped boxes back to Paris via SERNAM - this was more expensive than shipping them out in the first place but we decided quality of life weighed heavier here. On our return to Paris we went once again to Montparnasse to get the boxesand they were not there. Later they were tracked down to the main SERNAM office in northern Paris. It was indicated that we would have to go get them. We declined and by 6:30 the evening before our departure they arrived!!!
5. Le Camping - picture perfect campsites on the banks of the Loire and on islands in the middle of the Loire. I particularly recommend Camping du Lac de Maine at Angers and the campsites in both Chinon and Saumur, both overlooked by chateaux. The only fly in this particular ointment was that most campsites closed on September 15th - bummer. We had to get a hotel for 3 nights at Blois as the camping had all closed and while the campsite season ends Sept 15th, the hotel season is still high at that time!! But hotels were reasonable enough - we spent 3 nights in Blois for the same amount as you'd get one night in a mid-range hotel in th U.S.!!!
6. The Tour - great routes, great scenery, perfect weather. It is very important to plan short mileage days every day because there is so much to see. This is not a tour for a record breaker or an expeditionist!!!
Now planning begins for next year - Germany or Bulgaria?
Any questions about this, please let me know.