On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who have travelled with British Airways (you can share your experiences here).
Virgin Atlantic, Bordeaux. British Airways
We flew Virgin Atlantic from Miami to London Heathrow. As per Virgin's policy, stated on its website, we were not charged for either of our bikes which were in TRICO hard cases. The bikes arrived at Heathrow without any problems. We had to transfer to Gatwick for our British Airways flight to Bordeaux. Again, as per BA's policy, as stated on its website, we were not charged for the bikes. British Airways is really strict about carryon luggage at Gatwick and what was a carry-on roll-aboard suitcase on Virgin had to be checked. The bikes arrived in Bordeaux without any problems.
We cycled for 3 days in the Medoc and St. Emilion areas and 3 more days in the Sarlat region of France on our own before joining up with a Backroads organized bike tour. These are both amazing regions in which to ride. There are a number of "piste cyclables" in both areas which are old railway lines that have been paved over as bike paths. Most notably there is the Piste Roger Lapebie which starts in Sauveterre-de-Guyenne and goes for about 50K, terminating just south of Bordeaux. It is a beautiful ride through the "entre duex mers" area with no cars except for at the crossings with roads. We parked in the town, and rode down the hill to get to the entrance to the piste. You can find a map of it by searching Piste Roger Lapebie in your search engine of choice. The main tourist offices in both St. Emilion and Sarlat have brochures/maps on the piste cyclables.
The other piste we rode started in Sarlat and terminates in Souliac and is another rails to trails ride which was really beautiful.
The bike store in Sarlat (Cycle Sarlat) was a life saver as my rear derailleur cable was frayed down to its last strand. The mechanic wasn't speaking English to me and my French was embarrassing, but he fixed my cable and tuned up my rear derailleur for a very reasonable price.
We used a Garmin Edge 705 which is the greatest thing going for cycle touring. I set up loop rides using Garmin's MapSource mapping software on my computer and downloaded the rides to the 705 (yes â you have to buy maps for different regions). On the road, the Garmin gives you both a beep and text cue for the next upcoming turn or change of direction as well as shows you the upcoming route on the map screen. A number of times, we wanted to go off the course I had set as a road looked pretty. The Garmin automatically re-calculates the route to get you back on track to the destination. We really loved having the Garmin on the bike and it made self guided touring a real pleasure for roads we had never been on and had no real clue where we were going, except for the mapping we had done on the Garmin. The mapping feature also includes an elevation screen, so you can see the upcoming incline. Again, this was fun at first, but could be depressing on a really long climb.
The return trips on BA and Virgin Atlantic with the bikes was uneventful, except that one of the straps on the TRICO case broke yet again. The case is pretty tough as even with a broken strap (it was one of the small ones on the short end of the case) the clamshell held together and the bike and gear inside were fine.
We rented a Citroen Picasso to drive between our various destinations. This was a great car for our purposes as I was able to put the rear seats down, making sufficient room to lay the bike cases flat and stack the bikes (front wheels off) on top of the bike cases and fit our suitcases and front wheels in around the bikes. That's a lot of stuff to stuff into a little car.
Portsmouth - St Malo Ferry, TER Trains and British Airways
We took two bikes (one with panniers and the other with a BOB Trailer) too France recently. No problems on the Portsmouth - St Malo ferry, and lots of other cycle tourers doing the same thing.
We cycled most of the way to Paris then put our bikes on the TER - Transport Express RÃ©gional train for the last leg. On these trains there is space for bikes at either end of the train and there is no need to make a reservation.
Once we arrived in Paris we were happy to find that the nearly all parks and roads had cycle lanes.
At the end of our holiday we cycled to Gare du Nord station and took the RER train out to CDG airport. Again there is room for bikes at both ends of the train. This train goes through some rough parts of northern Paris so watch your belongings.
Once at CDG we flew home using BA. No problems with bikes. Just took the front wheel off, turned the handle bars around and took the pedals off and put the bike in a large plastic bag that we purchased from the CTC in the UK.
Good News for British Airways travelers
From the BA site:
From 13 February 2007, all customers will be allowed to check in their respective free checked baggage allowance PLUS one additional item of sports equipment from the list below.
A single seat touring non motorised bicycle is allowed.
On top of this, in my previous experience BA provides a large, free plastic bag for the bike, but pedals must be removed and bars twisted and turned.
British Airways leaving from Germany
Travelling from Berlin to Islamabad via London Heathrow
As has been stated before on this website, taking a bicycle out of Germany on BA you will incur an extra charge of 25 Euros for European destinations and 50 Euros for long haul.
This charge needs to be put in perspective because it is a flat rate, meaning it allows you to bring a bicycle on top of your usual luggage allowance of 23kg. If you have lots of luggage - as I usually do - paying the flat rate is a lot cheaper than paying for the extra weight if you go above 23kg. Every kg extra will cost you 33 Euros, so 50 Euros for a whole bike is quite cheap in comparison.
Of course it isn't great if you travel light with only a race bike, say for a weekend in the Alps, but the flat charge has its advantages.
Flew to Frankfurt am Main with British Airways from Birmingham this September (2005). The bikes came up on the overgauge luggage belt very shortly after we had landed.
The airport is easily accessible by bicycle and you are soon on a dedicated cycle path. The Euro city Frankfurt map scale 1:16500 shows the airport and routes into the city. We did not cycle, however but took the regional railway from the station in terminal 1 where we got a train to Frankfurt-Sud and on to Wurzburg with no problems.
Flying back to Britain we were stung by a charge of 25 euros per cycle. The British Airways lady was hugely apologetic after I pointed out that I flew my bike two or free time per year with BA and had never parted with a cent. She explained that the airline had no option as to an extent they had to offer the same terms as the home airline (Lufthansa).
This is a German thing only and I remember reading of its introduction in the CTC magazine about 12 or more years ago.
For that reason I have never flown the bikes to Germany but the cycle path routes were so wonderful that I might pocket my pride and fly again.
BRITISH AIRWAYS AND REGIONAL PLANES
Having read a comment from a subscriber to this site about difficulties with regional jets, we were a bit worried when flying to Frankfurt with British Airways from Birmingham early this September (2005). We noted that the plane was an Embraer which is the smallest plane which we have ever used to carry bikes.
I called at Birmingham Airport a few days before departure and confided my worries to a member of BA staff. He said, "No Problem, just bring the bikes." On the day the woman at check in said, "You have pre-booked the bikes?" and we said yes which was only partly true.
We packed them in the plastic bags supplied by British Airways( which we use for several trips before seeking new ones). Anyway they took the bikes and we actually saw them being loaded and they reached Frankfurt without problem.
When we fly with British Airways we always get good service but do make sure we check in early and do book our flights at quieter times.
As regards pre-booking when I used to book by phone, I always mentioned the bikes and the person would say that my ticket would be endorsed to say that I had a bike but when you book by the website there is no such facility and booking by phone costs something like Â£25 per person per leg of flight extra this would be ridiculous when the tax and surcharge free price of the ticket can be as low as Â£13.
Auckland-LA-Vancouver-Stockholm with British Airways
I brought my bike with me when I shifted from Auckland, NZ, to Stockholm, Sweden in August 2005.
I bought my ticket with BA but flew Qantas from Auckland to LA, Alaska Airlines from LA to Vancouver (where I had a two week stop-over) and then BA Vancouver to Stockholm via Heathrow.
I was worried I would end up paying overweight. I had the piece-system (2 x 32 kg, max height + width + depth of each piece 158 cm) and as anyone can figure out a bike does not fit those dimensions.
When questioned BA gave lots of different answers including âthey donât usually measureâ but when cornered they said that the correct procedure at check-in would be to count a too big box as two pieces. (www.britishairways.com/travel/bagsport/public/en_se)
On the other hand it is the airline that you check in with that decides, in my case in Auckland that was Qantas. Qantas provides bike-boxes (cardboard) which are 140*30*80 cm (way over the size-limit) and they say one bike counts as one piece. (www.qantas.com.au/info/flying/beforeYouTravel/sportingEquipment)
I decided it was worth a try and packed my bike in a card-board box (free/cheap from bike shop). Front wheel, handlebar, pedals and derailer came off. I wrapped sensitive parts in bubble wrap and filled the empty space with clothes that I wanted to bring. I put tape on all corners and sides and secured the box with more tape and two straps around it. My bike is 13 kg, the box when packed was 30 kg.
Apart from a randomised hand-search of my entire luggage, check-in in Auckland (Qantas) was hassle-free. At LAX I had to pick up my luggage, take it through customs and trolley it myself to my connecting flight in another terminal.
After my stopover in Vancouver I checked in with BA and they didnât even bother weighing the box.
In LA and Vancouver the bike came on a special oversize luggage band.
On some of the other postings it seems to me people have been trying to hide the fact that they are bringing a bike. I donât see why. My bike-box obviously contained a bike (it said KONA all over it) and I was more a tension-braker in cues than a problem in any way. It even made it possible for me to bring more stuff, since the volume in the bike-box is about twice that of a maximum suitcase.
The bike-box has done its service and is now retired. The bike survived well, no scratches or dents, and apart from the lousy information from BA prior to my flight I am very happy.
Good luck with your travels!
British Airways: Hamburg-Heathrow
6th August 2005 I flew with my touring bike from Hamburg to London Heathrow. BA insisted that I not only book it in advance but reserve space for the approximate volume. They then charged me Euro 25 which apparently is standard for flights from Germany.
I was intending to put it in a plastic bag but the outsize baggage people requested me to leave it out of the bag, turn the pedals and bars and put soft protection on any delicate protrusions. This I did and the bike arrived at Heathrow in ok condition.
Bikes to and in Zambia
I have taken my bike from London to Lusaka about five times with British Airways; the last time was in June of 2005.
At Heathrow terminal 4 I take it to check in desk 61 where they don't usually weigh it or charge any extra. I have flown with the bike about 50 times in the last twenty years and never paid any excess.
Usual request, remove pedals and turn handlebars parallel to cross bar. I always insist that letting the tyres down is totally unnecessary; most times nowadays they leave them inflated.
At Lusaka the bike is always unloaded by hand and lying in the baggage hall ready for me to attach the luggage when it arrives.
In Zambia I cycle on bush tracks where I can cross rivers by dugout canoe where available and where there is no motorised traffic to run into me.
I no longer cycle on main tar roads which are quite dangerous. I never have any difficulty putting the bike on a bus either on the roof or in one of the boots. The bikes cost nearly as much as my fare but that is very reasonable. I have never known a taxi driver refuse to take my bike sticking out of the boot. I always fix it with a couple of luggage elastics.
I went on a flight from Sydney Australia to Bangkok, Thailand. My bike box, which I checked-in, weighed 25KG and I wasn't charged for any over-weight (although the luggage allowance was 20kg). Plus my hand bag weighed about 12 kg - but that was not a problem as well.
All in all a good experience.
and - the flight was excellent!
British Airways -- Lost Luggage
My boyfriend and I travelled from Manchester, UK to Auckland, New Zealand with Britsh Airways/Qantas on 30th November 04. I found BA's website quite ambiguous when trying to get information about how much weight we could carry; we knew we were allowed 2 pieces of luggage each, but it was difficult to tell what the maximum weight allowance was.
On arriving at the airport we found that we had a total allowance of 64kgs, and that each piece of luggage could not exceed 32kgs.
We flew via Los Angeles (where we had to collect and re-check our luggage), and the bike boxes were opened and checked by customs at LA and Auckland. This was not done while we were around.
When we arrived in NZ, we discovered that our bikes had been lost, but there were at least 10 other people on our flight that had also lost baggage. Two reasons for this are that the connection was quite tight, and that that flight is one of the busiest you can take, as prices go up dramatically from 1st December. The bikes were located using the luggage barcodes (make sure you keep hold of your copies of these barcodes!) and were delivered to our hostel within 2 days. As we're here for a year, this was not very stressful for us, but obviously this could cause other people huge problems.
The bike boxes were the most bashed about that I've seen (we've always used cardboard bike boxes), but the bikes were not damaged; we padded the boxes out with sleeping bags etc, all zip tied to the bikes, and used the packaging which comes with new bike - i.e. axle replacements etc.
Our advice is: It's very important to put your home address on your bike box, and if possible put the address of where you'll be staying when you arrive. Even though the boxes were barcoded, we were asked several times if the boxes had our home address on them. Make sure you keep a copy of the "lost baggage / irregularity report" - in the worst case scenario, this document is your proof that you informed the airline as soon as possible that your bags were lost.
Even though the bikes were lost and the boxes were a bit bashed up, I would still fly with BA and Qantas again. Their customer service was excellent and i think its just the luck of the draw over whether it's your bike which is lost, and if its you that gets a string of bad baggage handlers.
British Airways and the Bike Box
Just wanted to relay some information on British Airways and your bike box. I traveled from SFO to London and packed my bike in a hard case box that locked and was secured with several wingnuts.
I first notified British Airways that I would be taking my bike in a large bike box and they told me that I may be charged around 100 USD extra. A bit dismayed, I checked in at the airport and I was happy to find out that they weren't going to charge me at all because the weight of the box didn't exceed limits for checked baggage.
The bike box did however, need to be taken to the oversize baggage check in desk and the guy there told me to take and keep my locks that I had placed on the box. Make sure your box is secure and that your bike is protected by padding inside because airport workers aren't gentle with your stuff.
When you are claiming your bike box on the other end it will most likely be rolled out of a back room rather than coming out on the carousel with everyone else's baggage. All in all I found British Airways to be very helpful and straight forward when taking your bike box with you on your trip.
British Airways Boeing 767
We had no problems taking our tandem on BA from Moscow to London. BA don't provide boxes but say as long as the handlebars are turned and pedals removed this is OK. There was no damage to our bike on the trip. We were not charged. The only difficulty was weighing it on the oversized scales on which it didn't fit!Alistair Morris, September 18, 2004
British Airways: Bikes fly free!
I just returned from a trip (May 31, 2004) on British Airways, from Orlando to London and London to Rome and back to Orlando. My bike was in a cardboard box and was checked as regular baggage with no excess baggage charge. All the British Airways people were very nice about it also. I have flown accross the Atlantic previously with Northwest Airlines, KLM and Delta, and British Airways stands out as being a far more comfortable flight than the others. I know who I will fly next time to Europe, even it costs a bit more!
I took a fully assembled touring bike on British Airways in May 2004, from Denver to London and back. The bike was counted as one of my two pieces of checked baggage, there was no extra charge, and the bike arrived unscathed after the Denver-London journey, and after the London-Denver journey.
The BA website has very explicit information on bikes another special baggage on it's website, and baggage regulations vary according to what part of the orld you're flying to. There are also restrictions based on what type of aircraft the airline is using for a particular route. The Airbus jets used on short hops in Europe have very stringent size restrictions based on the design of the cargo doors on those jets.
I thought that BA was very careful with my bike, and I intend to use them on my next overseas trip if possible.
Official rules are here:
We have cycled to and from the airport in Nice, France about 4 years ago, and found it incredibly simple to bicycle out of the airport and directly into Nice. The route was direct and a cycling/jogging path follows the road only 1-2 miles out of the airport. I believe it was about 5 miles total from the airport to town, and the return trip was also easy despite a light rain. At that time, we took British Airways which accepted our bicycles without a box or bag (although we had brought along housses (bags) which we had purchased during an earlier trip .
We had previously always purchased boxes at the airport, but British Airways took them without any box or bag, and they handled the bicycles with utmost care. We were quite pleased to find our cycles in perfect condition on both legs of this trip. Of course, it is always best to box the cycles but we took a chance this trip! I cannot speak from more recent experience, but in the past there has not be a place to store a bike box at airports due to terrorism issues. We were able to store our bike bags at the hotel in Nice.
I strongly recommend a tour of Provence for the people, the food, the scenery, and incredible weather in May! You should have an absolutely wonderful time!! Besides the usual sights (there are a number of books on cycling this region which are helpful), we took a detour to Grasse, then followed the Route de Napoleon, and onto the Gorge du Verdon (a smaller version of our grand canyon which is most memorable). But there is so much this area has to offer!
Leigh Durlacher firstname.lastname@example.org
S&S Machine Couplings
I have had a Thorn Discovery tandem since 1998 fitted with one set of S&S couplings so that it can be split into two pieces. Each piece fits into a purpose made travel bag with shoulder straps for ease of carrying. The bags are very strong, lightweight and flexible enough to roll up to 5 in diameter and 10 in long. Front half weighs 23 lbs and rear 27lbs. My wife carries the panniers and I the tool kit bag.I am 69 years old and my wife 73 years.
I have flown mostly with BA since they take bikes free, providing all up weight is not excessive. Destnations include Germany, Austria, Palma Mallorca, New York, Denver, Tampa. Yellow cabs in NY, high rise hotels and elevators. Taxis almost anywhere. Greyhound buses need a bit of care. Trains in UK of all varieties, Germany, Austria and Amtrak from NY to Tampa.It easily fits in my modest size car with a back seat folded down.
Airport passengers are fascinated to see me pick up the bags from the carousel and then proceed to assemble the tandem.
So far the tandem has only received very minor damage which is easily fixed.
These couplings enable my wife and I to travel almost anywhere with complete freedom and be self contained. However, it can be like taking the mother in law with us as "she" needs a lot of fuss and attention.
Hope this will give readers some encouragement. I am only too pleased to assist anyone if they need it.
Bikes to New Zealand from UK
We went from London to New Zealand via Los Angeles with two bikes plus camping gear. The weight allowance via the US is much better than going via the far east therefore avoiding excess baggage charges.
At Heathrow and Los Angeles we removed pedals and turned handlebars through 90 degrees and wheeled the bikes on. I think baggage handlers prefer this as it is easier for them to wheel a bike than carry a large box, it is also clear that it is a bike and we had no damage to our bikes.
From Christchurch to Brisbane we had to cover the bikes with two large polythene bags supplied by Quantas.
On the return trip from Brisbane to Heathrow via Auckland & Los Angeles we were told by Quantas to check in our bags (and tools) as normal and then go and get bike boxes from the large items loading area, we had to pay for these.
I kept one allen key out to allow us to remove the handlebars (pedals had already been removed) but despite this the boxes were too small for our touring bikes. At this point the baggage handlers said we could put our bikes on the plane without boxes and we had to sign a waiver just in case they were damaged. We were refunded the cost of the boxes and our bikes arrived in London without any problem.
I lost my allen key when I went through security -- a dangerous weapon. We were then supplied with metal knives and forks with our meal and a glass wine bottle!
All in all it went well, British Airways were very good but Quantas need to have some joined up thinking.
BA broke my bike
BA lost my son's Cannondale R500 somewhere between Paris and the middle east. After a week the bike arrived, carbon fiber front fork broken.
The promptly paid me USD600, so I'm happy.
Free transport on British Airways flights 2001
Summary of our flight experiences for our transamerican trip 2001. We flew UK to Dulles then returned to UK from Seatle, via British Airways.
We flew with two Dawes Super Galaxy touring bicycles (non folding) from Jersey Island (Channel Islands, NOT New Jersey!, this is old Jersey!!) UK to Dulles airport. Flew JER to London Gatwick, transfer by road to Heathrow, then Heathrow to Dulles. We checked the bikes in at Jersey and picked them up in Dulles. The bikes were transfered by BA from Gatwick to Heathrow, whilst we travelled by coach on the M25.
No box required. No additional charge. The bikes went as one piece of luggage. Our panniers as the second item of luggage. We had booked well in advance.
We prepared bikes by partially deflating tires, removing pedals, turning handle bars side ways. Our front and rear panniers were tied together and put in as one piece of luggage.
The bikes arrived safely but had been man handled at Dulles, the bikes had been hauled by the cables, but a tweak with the pliers and allen keys had everything working within minutes.
At Seattle the BA staff wanted to box the bikes. We managed to persuade them there was no need. Again we had to transfer at Heathrow to Gatwick, and didn't have to pickup the bikes until Jersey. Both bikes arrived in tip top condition on Jersey Island, UK.
Top marks to Brittish Airways for the care taken with our bikes.
British AirwaysBritish Airways is my favorite airline.
Last year I flew with British Airways from Heathrow (UK) to Denver CO. It was a bit on the expensive side but was the only carrier to fly direct. I was taking my bike there to sample the delights of the Rockies in the autumn (fall). I had bought a heavy duty neoprene bike bag from my lbs (MountainHigh), which performed faultlessly throughout. Anyway, the treatment I and my bike received from BA was exceptional. They checked in my bike with no hassles, (and no charge!) and they even brought me the bike when I arrived in Denver. The return journey passed effortlessly too, and I can't praise them highly enough. Needless to say the holiday was a blinder and so probably helped me with my rose-tinted view of my time there!
On my return to the UK I managed to bend my big chainring by dropping the bike (in the bag) when I took it out of my car! So watch out bikebag owners - they're not perfect protection!
Anyway I'm off to Andalucia in Spain next week for a some cycling in the sun and I'm flying with charter airlines (Britannia and Monarch I think!) so wish me luck!
My charters were with Britannia and Futura Airlines, both of which lived up to their reputations (cheap'n'cheerful), but thankfully failed to damage my bike! However, the bag is now looking a bit travel wearied! If anyone has an idea on how to prevent chainrings making holes in the bag please get in touch (email me = email@example.com).
"Never lose faith in the colour of the sky" - Mishun H. Sugworth. Gavin , March 14, 2001
Tandems and airlines
I've gone one better and taken two tandems on commercial flights. Most check in agents do not know their airline's rules for bicycles let alone tandems and tandems do require a bit more space. Its also a lot more difficult to pack and carry it in a bag or box.
My approach is to make sure you have a note put in your booking reference that you are taking a tandem on the flight (even better book direct with the airline) and then write to the airline customer services telling them you are booked on their flight with your tandem and ask for any instructions and for any special handling arrangements to be made.
When you get to check in you can show them a copy of the letter you get back telling them its all been arranged with customer services and its in your booking reference. That will usually instantly remove the I don't know what I'm supposed to do so I'll make something up problem with check in agents
You can't easily pack the tandem without SS couplings so take the pedals off, protect the rear mech and hand it over naked. Its far less likely to get damaged if the handlers can wheel it around than if its a 50lb large box to throw around.
I have flown both SAS and British Airways with tandems. SAS made a small charge but otherwise handled them without problems. BA allocated hold space specifically for the tandems on the flight and made no charge. From other experience I doubt Swissair would be a problem either.
British Airways, Qantas, London-ChristchurchBA/Qantas. I flew London-Christchurch via Bangkok and Sydney and Auckland-London via Los Angeles on a mixture of BA and Qantas flights in 1995. No prep and no problems, though I didn't have much excess luggage. It is important that you clean your bike, tent, tent pegs, boots, etc, of all soil before taking them to New Zealand as they are Very Fussy about that sort of thing. You will have to wait half an hour or so while they inspect them, and you could end up paying for fumigation, or even getting them incinerated. Getting from Auckland Airport to downtown, have a look at a detailed street map which they have on the wall at the information office, the best way involves going over the old harbour bridge which is now closed to cars.
Ivan Viehoff, August 01, 2000
Bags vs. Boxes ... (a continuing debate)
FWIW, I've flown BA with my bike 4 times to and from Europe in the past few years. Three of those times my bike was boxed. The first time I picked up my bike at Heathrow, the box was open and I was very, very lucky to not have lost anything (I stuff the box up with camp gear, sleeping bag, panniers, etc.). Other than a hefty gash in the toptube, there were no injuries.
I must admit BA was very helpful in locating some packing tape so I could patch the box up for the connecting flight. There were no problems with flying the bike back to Canada. The third flight, they somehow managed to knock the brakes all out of whack, and since I had my Cooltool stolen at Istanbul airport, I had a heck of a time readjusting them (note: not a bad idea to keep a couple of spare hex wrenches/allen keys handy - very light and very useful in an emergency).
The last time I couldn't for the life of me find a box in Istanbul (and BA will *not* help you out) so bit the bullet and flew it boxless. I don't know how they did it, but the handlers had managed to turn the front wheel blade/tube 360 degrees. It was near impossible to right it without disassembling something. They must have a special knack for this sort of thing!
For me, the major hassle with not using a box is not having that space for all the camping gear (tent, thermarest, sleeping bag, small panniers, etc.). I didn't think it was possible to carry all of that on, along with my big panniers, but I did it. Of course, that meant no souvenirs! I'll probably still continue to box the bike, at least when it's possible, although I know that with BA, the injuries probably won't be life-threatening.