On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who have travelled with US Airways (you can share your experiences here).
Table of Contents
US Airways to Europe
US Airways charged $100 Portland, OR to Lisbon for my bike(one way). Bought a bicycle box at Portland airport for $10 - used. On plane change in Philadelphia I had window seat and viewed cargo handlers ignoring the 'UP' arrows I had felt-penned in large letters on my bike box, generally manhandling it like all the luggage. Bike arrove in Lisbon with fortunately only a minor brake cable problem.
My recommendations: Box your bike well in a new bike box, taping seams well. DO THIS THE DAY BEFOE DEPARTURE at the airport and store the bike (many airports have baggage storage facilities) reducing stress at check in. Tape rear panniers together. Carry-on front panniers and handlebar bag. Avoid USA air carriers if possible - if going to europe EU air carriers especailly German, are much better about bicycles, but expect ALL air cairriers to manhandle your bike. USA air carriers are expensive!
Condor Air (German) has easily the cheapest flights between Frankfurt and USA (in 2011) and only charge $50 for a bicycle (one way). Good luck
US Airways & Surly Travelers Check
Flew (NS) from Charlotte to Rochester, NY with my S&S Softcase (Surly Travelers Check), paid online-$23, no problems at counter, no damage. The one thing I had issues with was the Tubus Cargo Rack, I carried it on with my panniers in a duffle, cumbersome but free. Touring tires & a 60cm frame cause the softcase to pack VERY tight, had to remove fork, and reverse the left crank arm. more disassembly than I planned on, but it is what it is. The tour thru Montreal, Vermont, & New Hampshire was more than worth it.
I recommend a tag on the outside of the case, "CONTENTS: 1 BICYCLE" and a copy of your flight itinerary on the inside, near where the TSA will see if they open the case.
US Airways unfriendly to ALL bikes
On a recent trip to San Jose from Baltimore I took my brand new Brompton folder. It folds to small enough to fit in most overheads. My plan however was to check it just like I've checked my childrens' stroller.
I made it fine through security and sat at my gate for 35 minutes when a US Airways employee approached me and informed me that I needed to GO BACK THROUGH SECURITY and pay $100 for the bike and check it. I was very upset as I did not bring a case or even a bag. I asked if I could gate check it and he said "No. It's a bike." I said yes, but a very small bike. Smaller than a stroller. He just repeated "It's a bike." over and over again.
The people at the check-in counter were equally bull-headed. When I asked if I could speak to someone to plead my case I was answered with "It's $100." I asked again and was answered "$100." I would up having to pay for and check-in my bike with no protection whatsoever.
This bike is specifically designed to fit into small places. The simple fact that "it's a bike" should not make it immune to common sense. It's a damned small bike and could easily be gate checked.
Tomorrow I fly Northwest/Delta and am terrified of their new $175 per bike policy. I will attempt to gate check it again. Perhaps wrapped in a trash bag so no one can see what it is.
Beware! I will never fly US Airways again and plan to start a campaign against these anti-bike policies.
UPDATE: Went back in '07 and they did not charge going out from RDU, but did charge returning from CDG. We got lucky outbound. Cardboard Boxes were not cheap at Paris airport either. But bikes did arrive safe & sound, and on-time.
No problems bringing a bike aboard on U.S. Airways to and from France for PBP (August 2003).
I used a cardboard Amtrak BOX for the outgoing trip (RDU, Philadelphia, Paris) - no airline fee, they never even mentioned it. I picked up another cardboard BOX from U.S. Air at CDG-1 (Paris) on the return trip - not even a charge for the BOX. They even provided tape. Do pad your velo well. The BOX WILL get tears and holes and handling. It will get cut open and retaped through security. It will be turned upside down and everywhich way and there will be things placed on top of it.
I did NOT deflate the tires. On arrival in Paris some of us noticed our tires had lost about half the air. We refilled and rode - no problems. Mine didn't seem to loose any air on the return trip.
Taking the assembled, unboxed bike aboard the RER trains in Paris was no problem either. I used the Yellow line between Paris and St Quentin and the Blue line between Paris and CDG. We even took bikes on the subway, though they're technically only allowed on Metro on Sundays. If you use the subway, avoid peak time/direction. The streets of Paris (and France) are very bike friendly, so you might as well cycle.
The Air France (Greyhound-sized) bus from the airport to Paris carried my BOXed bike in the luggage area (below).
A friend stored his bike (for a fee) at the consignment section of the train station at Montparnasse (Paris).
U.S. Airways Severely Damages Unpacked Bikes
My wife and I flew US Airways from the midwest to Gatwick Airport in London, England. From there we intended to ride our bikes from the airport and take a train to the east coast of England and ride from there across England and through Wales to the west coast.
We didn't want to pack our bikes and hassle with storing a case or box since we were entirely self-contained. We called U.S. Airways several times and confirmed that it would ship our bikes, unpacked, without an additional charge so long as we removed the pedals and turned the handlebars 90 degrees, which we did. U.S. Airways also told us it no longer carried bike boxes at the airport.
When we arrived at the airport in the Midwest, our starting point, we had to produce the U.S. Airways on-line printed document regarding its policy of treating a bicycle as an additional piece of international luggage at no charge. The clerks were unfamiliar with the policy and attempted to charge us but finally relented.
I had read other on-line posts regarding other bicyclists who had shipped their bikes unpacked and it appeared that the general consensus was that unpacked bikes were better treated than a boxed bike, aside from a few scratches, which we didn't care about. After we hassled with the U.S. Airways clerk about their no-charge policy for shipment of a bike internationally, the clerk presented us with a form requiring our written acknowledgment that our bikes were improperly packed! There was nothing on U.S. Airways web site regarding this waiver. Inasmuch as this was an adhesion contract we signed it under protest.
Upon arrival in Gatwick, both bikes were severely damaged. The rear wheels of both biks were bent, cables ripped lose, a shifter was damaged and inoperable, and a heavy-duty rear rack was bent towards the seat post. We couldn't roll our bikes and U.S. Airways had lost part of our other luggage containing our panniers and our tools.
U.S. Airways took the attitude of "too bad, you should have boxed your bikes." Our position was that we didn't give U.S. Airways a license to engage in reckless or intentional disregard of our bicycles during shipment. It was obviously forseeable to anyone but a moron that an unpacked bike could not be treated in the same fashion as a boxed bike. U.S. Airways conceded as much by not requiring the bike to be boxed in the first instance. It should have specified otherwise on its web site or provided a box for sale at the point of departure.
U.S. Airways finally agreed, after much hassle and working up the chain of command to reimburse us for repairs and to pay for a taxi ride from the train to a bicyle repair shop. U.S. Airways advised us to keep our receipts and upon our return flight to the U.S., it would "cut us a check at the airport." The clerk told us she was entering the information on the computer and it could be accessed by any clerk and taken care of accordingly. Upon our return flight, the U.S. Airways clerk (a different one) told us their was no information in the computer that authorized her to pay for our repairs. I had previously written down the names, dates, etc... of the authorizing clerk and upon my return I faxed a letter to her. She called me and said the "check would be in the mail." I haven't received it yet and its been about two weeks.
My advice: don't ship your bike unless its packed. U.S. Airways and its management cannot be trusted.
Bikes on public transport in Finland
I've been slowly catching up after 3 weeks in Finland, half of it bicycle touring. This is a report on bikes on public transportation.
We had four people, two single bikes, and one tandem. The tandem can convert to a single, and we were prepared to do that if necessary, but we did not have to.
Within Finland, we took many ferries, one train, and two buses. We did not have to pack the bikes or do anything else to them except take the panniers off (and attach the train ticket to the handlebar).
*** International airlines
We took our own bikes, traveling by USAir and Lufthansa. The singles are S&S coupled, the tandem is a Bike Friday Q. They were inspected by airline security and they were delayed with our other luggage by USAir on our return trip, but as far as I know there were no special problems. We were not charged extra. We stayed in Helsinki for a few days before and after the bike trip, and the hotel stored our bags and boxes.
No problems. On car ferries there's always room to squeeze in another bike. If there's no one directing traffic, let the cars on and off first, then find your space. If there's someone collecting fares or directing traffic, they'll have a place in mind. We took one ferry from Hanko that didn't take cars, and they had a place on top of the boat to load bikes.
Trains come in many flavors. Each flavor has its own rules.
Pendolino (fast trains): As far as we can tell, no bikes.
Express: The Express we wanted to take had a baggage car. The agent said "that's better anyhow, you have a tandem". The train stops, the conductor opens the baggage door, you hand up the (unloaded) bikes, then you toss in the panniers. It cost an extra 9 euros for the single bikes, double that for the tandem. If I read the ticket correctly, a single plus trailer would also be 18 euros.
InterCity: Each (most?) train has room for 3 bikes. Reserve ahead. One of the spaces was already reserved on the one we wanted to take, so we took the next train, which was an Express. W never did figure out whether they would have taken the tandem on the InterCity. I believe they also charge for bikes on InterCity.
Local commuter trains: we have no direct information
A friend made advance reservations for our bikes on a couple of bus routes. When we went to pick up the tickets, it appeared that they had no trace of the reservations. They did, however, make fresh reservations. No one else was traveling with bikes that day, so I can't tell whether the reservations made any difference -- but I'd make them just in case. The buses were the big cross-country buses with baggage bays on the bottom that ran the full width of the bus. We loaded the bikes ourselves. They were not quite tall enough to stand up the bikes, so we laid the bikes on their sides. On one bus, there was lots of space. On another bus, the driver had to rearrange cargo to makes space. No problem with the tandem -- the width of the bus was sufficient to take the length of a full-sized tandem.
US Air Approves Replacement of Damaged Case through TRIALL3sports
When flying from CA to Phoenix last year, my bike case came off the plane with a gaping hole in the botton. The case had obviously been dropped and where a wheel used to be, now had a 4" x 4" hole. Fortunately, my $4000 TT bike was not damaged. I immediately walked the case to the claim office and completed a claim form stating the value of the case (roughly $350). After completing the form, a supervisor came out for an approval and I was quick to learn he too was an avid cyclist. To my utter amazement, he offered to replace the case with a case from TRIALL3sports and even went as far as to have DIRECT billing to US Airways arranged. He even gave me a phone number of a rep at TRIALL3. In the end, I came out with a brand new case, of higher quality than the one I was traveling with. Side note: the case I was traveling with was a brand new, borrowed case and the owner was nervous about me using it. Go figure I would bust it up (er, the airline would bust it up).
So, moral of the story: the policy of most airlines and the level of service expected ARE NOT CONSISTENT! However, once in a blue moon you can find someone that is willing to go out of their way to provide quality customer service.
Final note: My return flight underscored my conclusion on inconsistencey. At the ticket counter, the woman was very snooty, insisting that I sign something that indicated that the airline WAS NOT responsible for damage to the case or bike. Obviously, after the incident on the trip to Phoenix, I was very upset, and I added gas to the fire when I commented that "you never know what the baggage room monkeys are going to do with my case." The comment was in NO way meant to be racist; an image from TRIALL3's website that depicts someone in a gorilla suit abusing a bike case with the caption "Don't let the baggage room gorillas destroy your valuable investment" just came to mind! The woman behind the counter became infuriated, taking my comment as directed insult toward her race.
In the end, the bike arrived home safely (the duct taped hole on the damaged case held), and a new case from TRIALL3 arrived a week later. I still laugh at the whole experience today! Happy travels.
[On a recent trip to Paris and back] US airways did a wonderful job, with no questions asked.
Lots of smiles without an attitude.
The same goes for customs etc. not once was I required to open my overstuffed bike bag !!
Back is Sacramento and no charges for the bike !
Just a note. I traveled from Pittsburgh to West Palm this past week. When I checked my bike I was told that the charge was $150.00 round trip an increase from $90.00 the last time that I traveled with the bike. I purchased my ticket on Priceline -- it was $200.00 round trip.
To make matters worse they left the bike box exposed to the rain when switching planes and the box was ruined. I'm hopeful that they will pay for the box without a fight over their negligence. A word to the wise.
Robert S. Daniels, June 19, 2000