How to avoid excess baggage fees in North America

US Edition

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Our previous article about European airline fees for bikes went down a storm and many people contacted us asking for a US version so here we are!

When traveling with your bicycle it’s important to know what the spiel is with excess baggage, but many airlines like to make it as difficult as possible for you to find out what the additional luggage charges are. Many of you who have traveled with your bike before will know that you’ll often find that the fees can sting quite a bit on something as bulky as a bike! Here’s our easy-to-use guide to bike baggage fees to help you spend less and avoid any nasty surprises.

The North American airlines have markedly different policies on bicycles than the rest of world. The biggest difference being the weight and dimension restrictions are virtually impossible to meet with a bicycle meaning (yet they are almost always waived when it comes to golf equipment). Almost all airlines state that if a bicycle is under 62 dimensional inches (thats the L X H X W) and under 50lbs then they’ll accept them as part of normal baggage and the fee will be waived. We are yet to come across a bike box or bag that meets these requirements (with the exception of our Travel Plus BMX). This means you have to pay excess baggage fees on bikes and those excess charges are up to 10x more than they can be in Europe!

Who’s the cheapest?

JetBlue, Virgin and Air Canada are tied cheapest with $50 each way. Although West Jet can be the least pricey with fees starting from $25 but because their prices incremental based on weight, size and number of bags so you can end up fishing out up to $265.50.

In some cases, for example with Virgin it might actually prove cheaper or the same to fly business or first class because the airline will waive the baggage handling fee or you’re allowance is increased under these tickets. It’s definitely worth checking- save money and get more leg-room!

Who’s the most expensive?

Drumroll please… Allegiant Air take top spot by $10 at $160 each way closely followed by Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines at $150.

Some extra tips

Book in advance when possible. Some airlines only let bikes on planes on a standby basis so if you just rock up on the day you might be disappointed.

Print out the airline’s policy on bike baggage from their webpage in case the desk clerk is a doughnut. I travelled with my skis once and had a full-blown argument with the lady behind the desk because she was telling me that I couldn’t have both a checked bag and sports equipment for free despite the fact the airline’s website said that I could.

Most importantly, invest if you haven’t already in a protective bike bag or bike case. The last thing anybody wants is a broken bike when you arrive at your destination. We’ve got some top tips for packing your AeroComfort 2.0 TSA bike bag here.

These were correct as of 18th November 2015. However, we do recommend double-checking with the airline before you fly (all links provided below).

Airline Extra Costs (each way) Max dimensional inches Max Weight (lb) Additional Info
American Airlines $150  126 70 More info here.
Delta $150 115  100 More info here.
Frontier $75 109 100 More info here.
JetBlue $50 Not stated 100 More info here.
Southwest Airlines $75 Not stated Not stated More info here.
United Airlines $150- $200 Not stated Not stated More info here.
American Airlines $150 126 70 More info here.
Air Canada $50 115 70 Must prebook at least 24 hours in advance. More info here.
Alaska Airlines $75 115 100 More info here.
WestJet $25-$265.50 depending on type of ticket, size, weight & whether it’s and additional piece of checked baggage 115 100 Very complex system, would recommend calculating size and weight beforehand. More info here.
Spirit Airlines $75 Standard dimensions waived Standard weight waived Must phone after booking online to reserve bike. More info here.
Hawaiian Airlines $100 100 50 (an extra $50 for up to 70lb) More info here.
Allegiant Air $160 Not stated Not Stated More info here.
Virgin America $50 80 50 (normal excess baggage charges apply if over) More info here.
Sun Country Airlines $75 Not stated 100 More info here.

Once you’ve succeeded in getting the best deal for flying with your bike, the last thing you want is to get there to find that your bikes have been trashed in transit.

So, make sure that you buy a top quality bike bag or box, Scicon are the leader in bike transportation and are available worldwide.