Northwest Airlines Bike Experiences

On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who have travelled with Northwest Airlines (you can share your experiences here).

Northwest Airlines changes its bike transport policy on international flights

Until recently, the NWA policy allowed FREE transport of a properly boxed bike to Europe. I did this twice, the last in the fall of 2006. I was aware this was too good to last. Following its bankruptcy filing, NWA changed from free to now being the most expensive - current cost is $150 each way for a single bike. If it makes you feel better, they treat all aspects of customer service in the same thoughtless manner.

Mike Persellin, August 21, 2007

NWA Bike Policy

US$80 for first bike, US$180 each additional bike!

My wife & I wanted to fly to Portland, ME, ride to Bar Harbour, take the ferry to Nova Scotia and bike to Halifax, fly back from there. $260 each way or $520 total.

NWA lost my business and we're flying Continental. With all Lance Armstrong has done for bicycling, NWA is very un-American. I hope the bike associations around the USA boycot NWA, maybe they'll go bankrupt faster.

Craig Shields, July 24, 2005

Flying NWA with bike - a horror story

I've flown about 15 times with my bike and this was the worst ever.

I had done exhaustive research on the exact type of plane that we'd be taking, whether the feeder flight (Northwest Airlink) had a large-enough size hatch to fit my and my wife's bikes (yes) and Northwest's policies re bike transit. We were told by reservations (two calls)baggage in Memphis and Northwest desk in Lafayette that the policy was one bike per plane (first come first served), the second bike, if there was insufficient overall cargo space, would come on the next flight.

Well BOTH bikes came 1 1/2 days late - and that only after countless calls on our part to top customer service reps. No, the bikes were not misrouted or misplaced. Northwest simply refused to carry EITHER until such time as a flight was sufficient lightly-trafficked that there was room for both bikes. Northwest would give no assurance of what day or even week the bikes might leave Memphis.

Finally, we arranged to have them rerouted to HOUSTON via CONTINENTAL. Northwest has to date failed to answer any of our requests for compensation for a rental car or refund of the $200 we paid for one-way transit. They seemed to have a "bikes come last policy":

Northwest rebooked us for the return on Continental via something called "involuntary transport". That, plus the fact that this constituted, apparently, a one-way ticket within 24 hours of departure (we reserved about 1 1/2 months ahead of time," put us in a high risk security category. Our bike boxes were opened, the bikes rolled out (losing the benefit of our careful packing)...

Based on this we'd never fly NWA again with our bicycles.

philip blumenkrantz, May 22, 2005

Very good experience with Northwest Airlines

Flew from London to San Francisco via Detroit with Northwest and must say I was impressed with how they dealt with my bike. Was fast tracked on check-in and they never tried to charge me for it. I had boxed my bike in London but was able to get a box for free at San Francisco Airport.

I went as far as sending them an email of congratulations!

gianni filippini, April 27, 2004

Northwest Airlines Experience?

Anyone have good/bad experience flying with a bicycle on NWA? I'm going to Spain in Sep for a 2 week bike tour.

Craig Shields, March 19, 2003

New Travel Rules (Weight Limits)

Found on: [email protected]

I just found out about a new one that is very important.

Some airlines have lowered the weight limit. Previously, most accepted up to 70 pounds per item. Now, some have lowered that to 50 pounds. Delta and Horizon are still at 70. Northwest is now 50. I did not check others.

Last time I travelled with the Friday, the scale said 51. As I recall, that included the trailer frame and some accessories.

Al Davis, January 07, 2003

Toronto to Florida via NW Air $$$$$

I sent this info to Adventure Cyclist and thought it appropriate for this web site.

March 2002

I recently participated in Bike Florida and it was a great ride and well organized. ( My wife's birthday present to me for my "L" (50th) birthday).

This note is about the costs (mistakes) of shipping my bike from Canada to Florida.

Thought I would be able to (sneak) my bike on as luggage with North West airlines. No way. They take golf clubs n/c though. I wrote them from their web response. $132 CDN one way
Ground service for my bike to travel with me to the airport. $8.00 CDN
Decided that it would be cheaper to ship back via UPS (sorta wrong). $80 CDN
Canadian brokerage fee to get MY BIKE across a free trade border back to ME. $64 CDN
My origional air fare to fly me only: ~$650 CDN (Peak season)
My Bike total costs ~$284 CDN

Next time I might consider a car and drive.

I think it's ridiculous that it cost almost half my airfare. Thought this might be something your readers might be interested in. (Please don't say book through Adventure Cyclist as then I would not have been able to use my air miles...we were trying to save money).

Jerry Daminato

Jerry Daminato, May 21, 2002

Northwest Airlines

May 16, 2001

Customer Relations
Mail Stop C6590
5101 Northwest Drive
St. Paul, MN 55111

Date of Flight: 5/14/2001
Flight Number: 3503 (Pittsburgh-Detroit)
49 (Detroit-Seattle)

My wife and I along with two of our friends (Steve and Terry Foster) just completed a trip that took us from Seattle to Pittsburgh and back using your airline. We left Seattle on May 9 and returned on May 14. We were traveling with two tandem bicycles that were enclosed in commercial bike carriers (Bike Pro) made for tandem bicycles. We normally check very little luggage while traveling with our bicycle since we usually enclose some of our clothing with our bicycle to provide extra protection. We have flown several other carriers prior to this with great success.

We were treated very well when we checked in for our departing flight in Seattle. We of course were charged eighty-dollars additional for our over size baggage, however, we were aware of that in advance. Our difficulty occurred when we arrived at the Northwest ticket counter in Pittsburgh for our return flights. My wife and I were being assisted by James A. Torchia (01-25-02). He checked our earlier flight leaving Seattle and recognized that we had been charged an additional eighty-dollars for our over size bag when we left Seattle. He then prepared a voucher for the same amount and had me sign it and checked in our baggage. A different agent, however, was servicing our friends. Her name was Swee Own. She refused to allow us to record her badge number and in fact covered her badge so that we were unable to see it once the situation became difficult. She would not review our friends’ flight record from Seattle and would not acknowledge the eighty-dollar baggage voucher that they produced. She insisted on weighing the bag. We have never in all of our experience with flying with our bicycle ever had our bag weighed nor were aware that it would be an issue. Upon weighing our friends’ bike bag she noted that it was over the one hundred pound weight limit and refused to take it as luggage. She furthermore insisted that our agent not take our bag either, even though I had already signed my voucher and he had produced luggage claim tickets for our entire luggage and checked us in on the flight leaving Pittsburgh. Needless to say we were dumb founded. Our flight left in just over one hour and we were stuck. I tried to reason with both agents that their airline flew us from Seattle to Pittsburgh under identical circumstances and now we were informed that they would not fly us back. It did not seem to make any difference to Ms. Own as she continued to refuse to help or assist us in any manner. She continued her stance that she would not break any of the company’s rules and therefore we were just out of luck. Again, we were only one hour from flight time and were given no other options. We had already checked our rental car and since we had acquired our tickets long in advance we did not believe another airline would be a viable alternative.

Finally, after approximately ten minutes of discussion, Mr. Torchia produced boxes for each of us and we quickly downloaded some of the heavier items included in our bike luggage bags to reduce the weight in each by approximately twenty five to thirty pounds. Ms. Own had earlier stated that there were no boxes available and effectively moved our friends aside so that she could assist other passengers waiting to check in.

We finally were able to check our luggage along with four additional boxes and made it to our gate with a little time to spare. As the boarding announcement was made for our flight at our gate Ms. Own approached our friends and informed them she had forgotten to charge them the eighty-dollars for over sized luggage. She then proceeded to fill out the necessary paper work and voucher at the gate counter as the plane was being boarded. Our friends eventually were able to board on time; however, they had the last row in the plane and had to “squeeze” through the aisles to get to their seats since they were boarding later than they should have. One of the female ticket agents at the boarding gate came looking for our friends after the plane was completely boarded and apologized for the rude treatment that they had received. She had also witnessed a portion of the harassing treatment we had all received at the ticket counter as well.

The above experience has left me quite embittered toward ever flying NWA again especially when we include our bicycle. We are members of several bicycle and tandem bicycle organizations. I feel compelled to share our experience with them so that other individuals may be forewarned of how they too may be treated.

I am not certain why Mr. Torchia allowed Ms. Own to over rule his judgment. Possibly she was his superior or he was concerned that she would report him as having violated a company policy. In any respect, I believe the four of us deserve a response based on what I believe was extremely poor behavior bordering on harassment.


Jay Vander Pol

cc: Cascade Bicycle Club
Evergreen Tandem Club
Adventure Cycling Association
Pro Bike
Northwest Unofficial Tandem Society
R&E Cycle

Jay Vander Pol, June 20, 2001

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