by Jeff Symonds
Airline bike fees can really add up! I have had to pay anywhere from $175 one way to nothing round trip. Here are five tips to keep your money in your pocket while travelling… or at least until you hit the duty free!
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Be really nice to the customer service agent.
The decision to charge you a fee comes down 100 per cent to whoever is working the counter. Most people are pretty stressed when they are at the airport so take a moment, compose yourself, and be both chill and charming. The nicer you are the more likely the agent is to cut you a break and not bother with the extra fee.
Don’t say it’s a bike unless the agent asks.
I know it can be super tempting to brag about how lightweight and aerodynamic your bike is and how big of a ride you did but resist that urge for just a few moments. When they hear the word bike, the first thing that pops into their mind isn’t “super cool” it is “bike fee” and “credit card please.” Let them ask the questions and figure out that it is a bike on their own. Sometimes they will assume that it is just a normal bag and not worry about an oversize fee. I have found if you keep the bag at your side or slightly behind you it helps as well. If the agent has printed the baggage before realizing it is a bike, sometimes they won’t worry about the hassle of reprinting it. If they do ask if it is a bike, always answer honestly.
Use a soft case.
There are many great options for soft-case bike bags including PRO. Soft-cases don’t scream “bike” and often appear both smaller and lighter than their hard shell counter parts. Often they are lighter and can get your packed bike just a hair under the 50-pound threshold that most airlines have. By getting your bike under the overweight amount you will avoid any overweight fees and sometimes set yourself up for no extra fees. I find the soft-case to be safer as well. When I fly with a hard-shell I would spend 15 minutes carefully packing and buckling up my bike case only to arrive at my destination to find TSA had crammed things together quickly knocking my rear derailleur out of place. With a Softcase they just unzip, look and zip it back up.
Use the self-check-in kiosks.
Self-check-in’s are becoming more and more popular. The self-check-in’s will print your ticket and baggage tag and most companies don’t ask if your bag is a bike or oversized. Simply print the baggage tag and take your bike bag over to the oversized drop off. The TFSA agent working the oversized drop off has far more important things to worry about and whether or not you paid your bike fee is not one of them. Some self-check-in kiosks will ask you if your bag is oversized. If this happens check the oversized box, print your baggage ticket and go see the customer agent as instructed. Often the agent will not bother with printing a new baggage ticket and waive the fee entirely.
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Bike fees for common airlines
Air Canada bike fee $50
Alaska Airlines oversize fee $75
Delta Airlines $150
Southwest Airlines $75
United Airlines bike fee $150
WestJet oversized fee $75 and according to the WestJet website can not “accept payment in the form of songs, yard work or feats of strength.”