United Airlines Bike Experiences

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

Fees for bike box on United Airlines

I recently travelled to France with my bicycle (coach). UA does not have the capability of charging for a bike box at the terminal. I was charged $400 one way and when I wrote to customer service, ponting out that I was overcharged according to UA's own rules, they refused to refund me. I will never travel overseas with my bicycle using UA again.

Michael Rock, July 25, 2014

United Airlines DROPPED my bike

We had to change planes in Chicago. I was watching the baggage men unload the bags from our plane. I saw my wife's bike coming down the conveyor. My bike was next, but the guy in the plane did not get the bike all the way on the conveyor. I saw my bike drop 15 feet to the tarmac. My heart sunk.

We have Airnimal folding bikes that fit into cases that meet the check-in size and weight limits. It is a tribute to the manufacturer of the case that my bike was not damaged in the fall from the conveyor. The external handle was ripped off, but that was bound to happen sooner or later. I was SO happy my bike was not damaged.

That day on United was a nightmare. Aside from the dropped bike, there was a delay in our initial departure, since they brought the wrong plane from the hangar. Then this caused another delay, since a storm had moved into Chicago. Finally, instead of arriving a Portland Maine at 1:00 PM, we arrived at 9:00 PM. We still had another 5 hours to drive. But the bikes were OK.

Andrew Schwartz, August 23, 2008

United Airlines imposes second-bag fee

Two major airlines, United Airlines and US Airways, have recently announced a new baggage policy that will require consumers traveling in economy class to pay a $25 fee for checking a second bag. Other carriers are expected to follow.

If you purchased a non-refundable, domestic, economy class, airline ticket from United or US Airways, you may be required to pay a $25 fee for your second bag unless you have significant status in the airlines mileage program such as Mileage Plus or Star Alliance. If you are not a member of the mileage program or if you are a general member with few miles, you will have to pay the fee. Business or first class passengers are not affected.

This new policy applies for tickets bought after February 4th (US Airways) or after February 26th (United) for traveling within the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands or Canada on or after May 5, 2008.

All airlines currently allow one free checked bag, one carry-on and a personal item, such as your purse or laptop computer.

Andrew Schwartz, March 16, 2008

Singapore (SIN) to San Francisco (SFO) on United

Have taken my bike twice to SFO (San Francisco) from SIN (Changi Intl) and back on United now. I bought a Scicon bike bag (the blue softcase one with the steel frame to fix the bike to).

No extra costs charged by United (as long as only one other bag and total checked baggage is under 64 lbs). No problem either way (ok, on the second trip the Scicon bag had one new smallish hole near the bottom which I have yet to find an explanation for).

Checking the bike at SIN was no issue. At SFO you get it at the oversized baggage claim, which may take a bit longer (if you are lucky to breeze through immigration. Else it is likely to be there already when you claimed your other baggage).

Returning, at check-in you may have to bring it to the oversized check-in yourself (after checking your other stuff), or be lucky to have the attendant call for someone to fetch it. In Singapore, there is an 'odd-size baggage belt' but both times the bike was out waiting at the main belt when I cleared immigration.

Since I took my biked bagged each time (and assembled it only when arriving at the Hotel) I have no info about bike-access at either airport.

Mathias Körber, May 13, 2005

Pittsburgh, PA to Tucson, AZ via United Airlines - BikeFriday

I flew to Tucson and back the last week of February. Took my Bike Friday with me in a suitcase on United Air Lines. No problems what so ever.

The TSA did leave a calling card in the suitcase on the way out ... but I don't believe they even upacked it. No check by TSA on the way back. United agents took the suitcase as regular luggage without any comment. Over-all a great experience.

Rich Moeller, March 07, 2005

SFO to CDG (Paris) July 2003

Last July I flew to France to watch the TDF, bringing along my bike in a rather large Triall3 bike case (http://www.triall3sports.com/bike.html).

I was flying UA 960 from SFO to CDG and 961 on the return trip. In each direction they asked how many bikes I had in the case (to which I truthfully replied just one!), but didn't charge for it. I found the United check-in people quite friendly and easy to deal with.

HOWEVER... please be advised that you should allow extra time leaving CDG (Paris) for home. CDG is an absolute zoo, with lines going everywhere, and, with complete randomness, the security people pick out victims to open up their bike cases and lay everything (including dirty laundry) out on the floor for all to see. It can be quite a spectacle! Amazingly, despite the huge size of my case, they passed me by.

Chain Reaction Bicycles

Mike Jacoubowsky, January 03, 2004

Melbourne to Denver via Tokyo, LA

I travelled from Melbourne Australia to Denver USA in March 2003 on a JAL flight via Narita (Tokyo). I expected to be charged a fee by Japan Airlines when I checked in two large peices of luggage and a bike box but to my suprise and delight they didn't.

The Melbourne-Tokyo leg was a code shared Qantas flight. When I arrived in LA I thought United might charge me for the LA-Denver leg of my journey but since I didn't have to check in my baggage the question never arose (the bag & box was transferred to the United Terminal by airport personnel after leaving LAX customs and the INS passport check area).

I'm hoping now that I will have the same experience travelling back to Melbourne with Frontier and JAL in December.

Howard Mitchell, November 05, 2003

United Airlines now charges $80

United charges $80 ... or at least they did both ways on my recent trip to/from San Francisco from the east coast (June 3 and June 10, 2003).

Your site has $75 as the fee.

c r y s t a l w a t e r s

e d i t o r http://www.girlbike.com

Crystal Waters, June 29, 2003

Northern Thailand

In Jan, 2003, I biked a loop in northern Thailand (Chiang Mai-Mai Salong-Golden Triangle-Chiang Khong-Nan-Phrae-Lampang) on a Bike Friday folding bike (which I love). Fabulous trip, and no problems at all.

United Airlines got me to/from Bangkok, and Thai Airways got me to/from Chiang Mai. I had no problem with security to get my bike on the flights, though TSA opened and inspected my suitcase containing the Bike Friday when I boarded in the US.

I took 3 buses in northern Thailand with the bike, and the buses were very accomodating. I also took 2 short trips in enclosed pickup trucks which function as buses/taxis in rural northern Thailand. The bike went on the luggage rack on the roof. The drivers were very accomodating. Most roads were excellent. Drivers were polite.

The area around Mae Salong has absurd road grading; elsewhere the grading was decent. I suggest taking buses to get into/out of Chiang Mai, as the traffic is bad on roads approaching the city.

All in all, it was a very rewarding trip. Kind people, lovely scenery, interesting sights, & great food. Weather from Dec-Feb is near perfect. The rest of the year is much hotter & uncomfortable.

Neal Teplitz, March 31, 2003

Airport Security

Found pn the Yak email list

I flew SFO->Newark and Newark->SFO last week with my Pocket Rocket. The experience was different in each direction.

1. SFO -- I checked in at the United counter, they tagged my bags, and I then lugged them over to the screening machine, where they ran them through the (really big) machine. The bike friday (in its samsonite suitecase) got tagged for an additional inspection. I got the inspector's attention and let them know it was my bag in case they had any trouble re-packing it, but they wouldn't let me near them, although I could see what he was doing. He opened the suitcase, read the note which I had left on top of everything (telling Mr. TSA Man that it was a folding bicycle, that it could be difficult to re-pack if you didn't pay attention when unpacking it, and giving my cell-phone number, just in case), then he moved the shoes and camelback which were on top, peered into the bag, and seemed satisfied. At that point, he put the this bag has been opened slip in the bag, and re-closed the bag. I was actually fairly impressed. He did act as if he'd seen a folding bike before.

2. Newark -- In Newark, the bags were tagged and disappeared behind the counter. I had the same note in the suitcase, just in case, but apparently there was no need to open the bag there (no slip inside when I recovered the bag in SFO).

Regarding weight, the woman checking me in at SFO did weigh the bag just to be sure (it was United, the limit was 50 lbs (my suitcase was 41), and IIRC she said that the overweight fee was $25). She did say they're being more consistent about weighing bags. TBH, given the security issues now, I've taken to putting just the bike in my bike suitcase (I used to jam every nook and cranny with clothing as a cushion), so I don't forsee any problems with the weight limits.

BTW, IIRC, the international weight limit is still 70 lbs, but I would check just to avoid any surprises...


Dan Martin, March 29, 2003

United Airlines Osaka, Japan to San Francisco, CA

I had a travel from Osaka/Kansai International Airport to San Francisco on Sep. 24 2002. And return flight on Oct. 19 2002.
United Airline service between Osaka/Kansai and SFO had no problem to carry my road bike. I called United 1 week before my departure. United person said that Osaka/Kansai may not prepare or take time to find a Bike Box unless you mention it in advance. And it costs US$10.

In my return trip, at SFO international check-in counter Bike Box was out of stock. It took more than 15 minutes to find a Bike Box (which was in domestic counter). In SFO it cost US$10.75.

Most difficulties are travel between my home and Osaka/Kansai airport. Japanese Bus/Train does not have Bike Rack. I needed to disassemble my bike to put in Bike Bag (so called Rinko-bag in Japan).

Katsushi ASAHINA, November 09, 2002

ripped off (by United Airlines)

I recently travelled to Frankfurt out of Dulles airport on UA and was charged over $90.00 each way to bring my bike. I am an age group triathlete and packed my bike disassembled in a hard plastic travel case. Why such a difference from what I am seeing posted on this website?

[The most recent reports on the site talk about a $75 charge. I guess that UA is getting greedy, again. -- GF]

Dave, August 13, 2002

United, Air Canada and BikeFriday

Took our BikeFridays for a tour of PEI and Nova Scotia in June 2002. Routing was United from DC to Boston, Air Canada from Boston to Halifax. Some problems:

Going north, either United or Air Canada failed to load our four bags, including the two BFs, so the tour started 3 days late.

On the way back, at the change in Boston United asked me to open the BFs, which had already flown from Halifax and gone through US Customs in Boston. Apparently this minor change in routine confused them so much that they left one of the BFs behind.

The good news is that there was no damage and no fees.


George Farnsworth, July 04, 2002

United Airlines

LAX-Milan, December 29, 2001

I called united Airlines ahead of time to ensure they knew I was bringing a bicycle and to confirm policy. They said I didn't need a box, just heavy duty plastic, but there are usually boxes available. Arrive 30 minutes early.

I attempted to confirm a couple of days before departure and to see if I could get the box in advance (since the flight was at 7am, meaning I 'should' be there at 3:30 am), but the agent was confused about the whole thing and I was busy.

I ended up at the airport at 5:15 am, avoided the very, very long check-in counter by using the Surfboards, bicycles and extra luggage counter. The guy was very helpful - he gave me the box ($10) and tape so I could put things together while I waited. By 5:40 I was headed to the gate. I was certainly better off than all the bikeless souls standing at the regular check-in.

Retreived without incident in Milan. I had a connection in Washington, DC, but I didn't have to deal with the bike there. No charge, checked as a second checked item.

I dragged the bike, in box and with my other bags, downstairs to the Malpensa Express and headed to the city center.

michael, January 09, 2002

United Airlines

Found on: [email protected]

Here is my recent experience traveling with my bike on a Star Alliance round-the world air ticket. (Star Alliance includes about a dozen airlines including United, ANA, Singapore, Lufthansa). At the time of ticket purchase, the agent assured me that my bag (which contained the disassembled bicycle) would be treated within the permitted baggage allowance on each segment of the ticket.

I had checked with the United agent by phone in Milan, Italy, and had also been assured that the bike would be permitted as ordinary baggage, since the ticket was coded PC for baggage. This was the case within Europe, within Asia, within Australia, within Japan and from the US to Japan, from Hong Kong to Madrid, from Venice to Boston, and from Boston to Norfolk.

At Norfolk, however, I was charged by United US$75 for a 30 minute flight to Dulles. United's regulations state that on domestic flights $75 is charged per bike (there is supposed to be no charge on international flights). Even though I traveled through the US on an international Star Alliance ticket, United ignored Star Alliance policy as well as the code printed on the ticket.

M Agelasto

Michael Alexander Agelasto II, September 27, 2001

United Airlines

I flew United to from San Francisco to Mexico via Los Angeles. On departure, they checked my bike, in a commercial plastic bike box, as international luggage and we were assessed no charge (they then sent the bike on a different shuttle to LA than the plane we were scheduled on; our plane got cancelled, hence our bikes remained in LA while we had to spend an overnight in SF awaiting another flight the next day). We transferred to an AeroCalifornia flight to Manzanillo and our bikes were checked through; again, no charge.

When leaving Mexico, AeroCalifornia didn't charge us for the bikes (international baggage rules). When we got to LA, however, we had to pick our baggage and clear customs. On checking in at United, we were informed we were now on a domestic flight and domestic baggage rules applied and it was $75 to fly the bike to SF. We argued it was simply a leg on an international flight, as it was when we left the US. And the tickets were issued by United. After calling the supervisor, etc. (and pointing out that they'd lost our luggage--twice--on the trip, as well as cancelling our flight and causing a one-day layover) they relented and waived the charge.

Rob Gendreau, February 24, 2001

United Airlines. Minneapolis to Heathrow

I obssessed months over packing the cannondale, finally buying a $7 Amtrak box, very big and wide. Flight over was on Air Canada due to a storm over Chicago and the box arrived badly torn on each of the big sides as to be unsuable. Upon return to Heathrow after a month in France, I was sold a 7 pound sterling bike box, but there were none to be had in all of Heathrow. The Cannondale flew baggage again free, with nothing on or over it and arrived back in Minneapolis in perfect shape. My theory is that the handlers knew that any damage would be immediately seen and so did not mis-handle it!!!
All I can say is Do it, bike France!!! Charles Pahl

Charles Pahl, September 16, 2000

United Airlines

My wife and I flew New York to Paris and return on United and they did not charge for our bikes. They were treated as a piece of luggage. The bikes arrived in fine shape, although one of my panniers was delayed for a day. On the way back my wife's bike which was in a bike box supplied by United arrived fine. Mine which was in a nylon bike bag wa a bit scratched but otherwise OK. However, the nylon bike bag had numerous cuts and rips and I will be contacting them about replacing the cost of the bike bag. . Also, the bike was lost for a day, but they were very good about delivering it to my home a day later.

Bob Leve, August 12, 2000

United Airlines

George, I live in Japan and have taken my mountain and road bikes to various Asian cities.

United sold me a cardboard box large enough for my mountain bike to fit in without major disassembly. I only took off the pedals and turned the handlebars 90 degrees. The box cost 10 dollars US. United has never charged me a specific bicycle fee on any of their flights in Asia. They were always helpful, providing tape when asked and promptly taking my bike away when I checked in. I have had none of the horror stores I read about from the domestic United.

Duane Brosky, May 28, 1999

United Airlines

I was told by my bike shop to buy the box United sells. That way, I wouldn't be asked to sign a waiver. I bought the box and paid the ridiculous $50 each way. Fortunately, my bike came through on both ends without damage. The box got fairly beat up each way. It was pretty obvious that things were stacked on top of the bike box because there were holes where the brake levers were.

In Boston, we got to the airport extra early like we were supposed to and checked in at oversized baggage. The needed someone to take the bike to the bag room since they don't have a conveyer. When it got to within 20 minutes of our departure time, I asked the agent for the third time when someone was going to come get my bike. I was told that everyone was busy, but that I could take my checked bike to the bag room myself! In order to get my bike on the plane, I took it to the bag room myself. I got to pay $50 for the privlige of carrying my bike myself. Not to mention that it was checked baggage at that time, and I could have put anything in the box.

To make sure things are in perspective, when we were getting on the shuttle bus in the parking area at SFO, the bus driver came out to see if we needed help getting our stuff on the bus. He lifted the bike box and thought it was empty it was so light. Of course my bike was in the box. An average bag of golf clubs must weigh 2-3x's as much as my bike.

Brian Debasitis, July 23, 1998

United Airlines

Sorry for the delay in this response. I took my own bike, having it boxed in a regular new bicyle shipping carton by my dealer for the trip over. That cost $20. Lufthansa quoted me DM100 each way for the cost of shipping it. In fact, I flew over on a United plane. They wanted $65, but agreed to $55, based on the Lufthansa quote (they're cooperating carriers). On the return, Lufthansa accepted the bike as baggage and charged me nothing. Obviously, it makes a difference who your gate agent is. I packed in in the same box for the return, removing the pedals, seat, front wheel, front axle, and handlebars. It wasn't as artfully packed as my dealer had done, but it got back in good condition.

Ronald L. Wallenfang, October 14, 1997

United Airlines

I've heard many stories about arguments with UAL ticket-counter and gate-agents regarding shipping charges for bikes. Seems that each agent has their own idea regarding charges, both how much and when they're "mandatory". The fact is, UAL customer service agents have quite a lot of leeway when dealing with irate or insistent customers, and if you're firm (not nasty, of course -- don't want to give a "bad name" to cyclists!!!), you can usually get charges waived. The "tactic" that seems to have worked best is asking to see a supervisor.

I say this as a UAL employee (I'm a mechanic)--the company's supposedly going through a "corporate culture change," so "employee empowerment" is the name of the game -- take advantage of it!

Rlesnik, May 07, 1997

United Airlines

George - I just came back from flying United LAX to Orlando. You are allowed to take your bike on the plane without having to put it in a box. The $50 still applies (unfortunately) but this way you don't have to pay the $10 for the box as well.

I boxed it on the return flight and it was treated far worse than unboxed on the flight out. IMO, not boxing it is better - because I think they treat it better. (Damage is easier to see.)

Note that the ticket people aren't aware of this change, but it is in the computer if they look.
Regards -
Susan Merrill

Susan Merrill, April 21, 1997

United Airlines

Domestic flight. The box cost $10 and the charge was $20. Make sure that you tell the ticket person you are on a shuttle flight rather than regular or else you'll get hit with a $50 charge instead.

Jay O'Brien, April 07, 1997

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