Cycle Touring - Flights Taken With a Bicycle

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Flying with a bicycle is not always a trouble free experience but it can be done. This is a list of flights I have taken with my touring bike and gear, and what I experienced. Hopefully it will prove useful for someone in a similar situation trying to avoid the many problems of flying with a bicycle. Please feel free to post via comment your own experiences. So far, given how awkward I found it to carry a boxed bicycle and panniers (weighing in excess of 30kg), I've found just cycling up, with the bicycle not protected in any way, has worked very well and been a far more pleasant experience. So far no bike damage (apart from paintwork scuffs)! You'll notice over time my luggage becomes slightly lighter due to me cutting back on what I was carrying.

Istanbul > Tokyo - 28/07/2011

  • Flights - Istanbul Ataturk > Abu Dhabi Internation (connection) > Tokyo Narita (£400 single)
  • To Origin - had to take a last minute large cab from Beyoglu, costing €30. Bike box wouldn't fit in a standard cab, and I chose to avoid the tram.
  • From Destination - took the JR line to Asakusa costing around 100Y. No problems.
  • Airline - Etihad Airways
  • Allowance - 23kg checked, 7kg carry-on
  • Actual - 18kg approx. cardboard bike box (checked), 8.4kg pannier (checked), 9.6kg hold-all (carry-on) - 6kg over!
  • Problems - Initial shock over the bike box. No problems with weight. They asked me about my carry-on luggage and even weighed it, saying it was too heavy. I said I would re-arrange, I did, but the weight didn't change, and it wasn't asked about again. Had to leave the bicycle at the desk for them to deal with (get it checked by security).

Osaka > Shanghai - 13/09/2011

  • Flights - Osaka Kansai > Shanghai Pudong (£320 single)
  • To Origin - Airport bus from Kyoto taking just over an hour and costing 2500 Yen. No problems.
  • To Destination - Shanghai Metro Line 2 to East Nanjing Road costing 7RMB. Bike box blocked up the metro scanning machine as it was too big! Security guard then checked my passport (?) and said I couldn't take the box through. I blagged that I had emailed the Metro information services and they said that as long as the bike was boxed it was ok. He let me go through as long as I didn't "touch people"?! The Metro line got quite crowded, so was do-able but not pleasant.
  • Airline - China Eastern
  • Allowance - 20kg checked, 5kg carry-on
  • Actual - 20kg cardboard bike box (checked), 5kg pannier (checked), 5kg pannier and 2kg bar-bag (carry-on) - 7kg over!
  • Problems - the bike box was measured by the check-in girl but it wasn't an issue. There were no problems at all with the weight or my carry-on luggage.

Shenzhen > Bangkok - 07/11/2011

  • Flights - Hong Kong International > Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (£140 return)
  • To Origin - From mainland China, the ferry from Shekou Ferry port. An amazing experience making getting to the airport and checking-in a very easy experience. I wrote a more detailed post about my experience.
  • To Destination - picked up by my hotel as part of their transfer service
  • Airline - Sri Lanka Airlines
  • Allowance - 30kg checked, 7kg carry-on
  • Actual - 12kg bicycle un-boxed, wrapped in cling film (checked), 6.5kg pannier (checked), 6.5kg pannier and 2kg bar-bag (carry-on) - under allowance!
  • Problems - none at all, the best airport experience by a long way. One I will be doing again when I fly to India from China.

Bangkok > Phuket - 08/11/2011

  • Flights - Bangkok Suvarnabhumi > Phuket "International" (£55 single)
  • To Origin - left my bike in airport storage for 100BHT (£2) for one day. Hotel service dropped me off at the airport.
  • From Destination - cycled right out of the door!
  • Airline - Thai Airways
  • Allowance - 20kg checked, 5kg carry-on
  • Actual - 12kg bicycle un-boxed, wrapped in cling film (checked), 6kg pannier (checked), 6kg pannier and 1.5kg bar-bag (carry-on) - under allowance!
  • Problems - The girl did get her supervisor, but it wasn't a problem. Turn handle bars, lower seat, deflate tires etc... Had to put the bike through a scanning machine, so it picked up a few scuffs. Arrived with no major damage, only a few scuffs.

Krabi > Bangkok - 29/11/2011

  • Flights - Krabi Airport > Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (£60 single)
  • To Origin - cycled the 14km from Pak-Up hostel to Krabi airport. A very easy cycle.
  • From Destination - I wasn't allowed on the rail, so had to cycle from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi to near Lumphini. I didn't mind the journey but it wasn't pleasant. Large fast roads, and on some occasions flyovers.
  • Airline - Thai Airways
  • Allowance - 20kg checked, 5kg carry-on
  • Actual - 12kg bicycle un-boxed, no cling film (checked), 6kg pannier (checked), 6kg pannier and 1.5kg bar-bag (carry-on) - under allowance!
  • Problems - No problems at all. The typical pedals off, turn handlebars etc... The check-in staff seemed more interested in staring at my bike than anything else.

Bangkok > Shenzhen - 05/12/2011

  • Flights - Bangkok Suvarnabhumi > Hong Kong International (£140 return)
  • To Origin - Taxi-van costing 600BHT. I couldn't face cycling back to the airport! It took around 30 minutes in clear traffic.
  • From Destination - transfered to the ferry at Hong Kong airport. Arrived and cycled from Shekou ferry.
  • Airline - Sri Lanka Airlines
  • Allowance - 30kg checked, 7kg carry-on
  • Actual - 12kg bicycle un-boxed, no cling film (checked), 6kg pannier (checked), 6kg pannier and 1.5kg bar-bag (carry-on) - under allowance!
  • Problems - The airport staff at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi kept asking if I had a box. I told them I flew to Bangkok with the bicycle un-boxed. In the end it wasn't a problem, but they asked a lot of questions. At Hong Kong when transferring to the ferry to China you don't collect your luggage, it is collected for you. You then collect it at the destination ferry port. The bicycle arrived ok with no serious damage although it did have a nasty chip/graze on the frame (top tube). It looks as though it was rested against something coarse. Cling film around the frame would have prevented this.

Shenzhen > Perth - 11/01/2012

  • Flights - Hong Kong International > Perth International (£285 single)
  • To Origin - From mainland China, the ferry from Shekou Ferry port. Cost is £26 but you get a £10 tax rebate at the airport.
  • To Destination - picked up by a friend
  • Airline - Singapore Airlines
  • Allowance - 20kg checked, 7kg carry-on
  • Actual - 12kg bicycle un-boxed, wrapped in cling film (checked), 7.5kg pannier (checked), 6.0kg pannier and 1kg bar-bag (carry-on) - under allowance!
  • Problems - none at all, no bike damage. The staff at the ferry check-in side of Hong Kong airport are great. The only thing they question is if the tires are deflated.

Perth > London - 21/02/2012

  • Flights - Perth International > Hong Kong International > London Heathrow (£1050 return)
  • To Origin - Driven to the airport by a friend
  • To Destination - Picked up by a friend
  • Airline - Qantas
  • Allowance - 23kg checked, 7kg carry-on
  • Actual - 18.3kg bicycle boxed (checked), 6.5kg pannier (checked), 7.0kg pannier (carry-on) - 1.8kg over!
  • Problems - the girl at the desk noticed I was overweight (they seem quite stringent in adding up your total weight), but put my pannier down as 5.0kg instead of 6.5kg. Worth noting if you're quite a bit more overweight than that. Apart from that the bike arrived in perfect condition. The box itself still looked new!

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