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Flying With A Bicycle In A Plastic CTC Bag


When we have to board a plane with our bicycles, we’ve traditionally packed our bikes in a box. Now we’re trying something different: the CTC plastic bicycle bag.

CTC Bicycle Bag

What is it?

  • A heavy duty plastic bag that can be used about 5-6 times before it will probably need to be thrown out.
  • It’s really not much more than a thick sheet of plastic, sealed into a bag shape. You could make your own with any thick sheet of plastic and a bit of tape.
  • The CTC bag weighs 800 grams and is 1.27 meters wide x 2.5m long.
  • When folded it can be as small as 2.5 cm x 15cm x 30cm.

We like it because it is:

  • An affordable way to pack a bike. It costs under $10 U.S.
  • Quick! It takes only 15 minutes to get your bike ready to fly.
  • It’s small enough to slip under your luggage rack, so you can carry it with you while touring.
  • A multi-purpose bag. You can also use it as a groundsheet for your tent.

How do you pack it exactly?

It’s pretty straight forward. We start by turning the handlebars so they are parallel with the frame. We then put a cloth (in this case our travel towel) around the frame to protect it from scratches.

Packing A Bike For Air Travel: Put A Towel Around The Bicycle Frame

We take the pedals off (they go in our checked luggage):

Packing A Bike For Air Travel: Taking The Pedals Off

We protect the derailleur. The first time we used a cardboard box:

Packing A Bike For Air Travel: Protect The Derailleur

And the second time we found a plastic water bottle did the trick:

Packing A Bike For Air Travel: Protect The Derailleur

Now we just have to let the air out of the tires and put the bike in the bag. We use packing tape to secure the bag. That’s it. The whole procedure takes about 15 minutes. Packing a bike into a box can easily take 1-2 hours (plus the time needed to find a box). When you have to unpack it, a bag also saves at least an hour of time.

The CycleTourer website shows a similar technique for packing their bikes in a bag.

When you get to the other end, you can put your bike back together, neatly fold the bag and stash it under your rack. Our bag stayed here without problem for an entire 3-week bike tour. We didn’t even notice it was there.

CTC Plastic Bike Bag

Won’t the bike be damaged?

The first time you use this bag, it may feel like a leap of faith. Will a simple plastic bag really protect your bike from the whims of baggage handlers and other airport risks? In our opinion, you don’t need to worry.

We flew twice using these bags and both times they were well treated. On the vehicle that brings the luggage to the plane, the bikes were carefully put to one side of the cart on their own (there were no other suitcases placed on or near the bikes) and the luggage handlers were careful when loading the bikes in the plane.

This seems to confirm the view that baggage handlers will be more careful with your bike if they see it’s a bike. If a bike is in a box, no one knows it’s a bike and it doesn’t look fragile, so suitcases and other heavy cargo might be piled on top of it, causing damage.

The CTC (the national cycle touring organisation in the UK) has this to say on the topic of packing bikes for a flight:

“When bikes fly naked, they paradoxically seem to suffer no more damage than when they go covered – usually less. We guess that’s because baggage handlers really are human, and don’t deliberately kick in the wheels etc! But a bike in a bag or box is just a package: that can be dropped, thrown, shoved and kicked into place just like any other bag or box. To prevent damage in that case you need a really hard case, that will only be big enough for a racing or mountain-bike and yet be heavy enough to make quite a dent in your luggage allowance.” – CTC

Of course it’s always possible to be unlucky. Sometimes bikes DO get damaged during air travel, however we’re not convinced that using a box makes that damage any less likely than with a bag. We’ll be using the bag from now on.

Will all airlines accept this as a valid way to pack a bicycle?

Before we used this bag, we were concerned that the airline (in this case, easyJet) would not accept the bikes unless they were in a box. We had heard stories about bikes being rejected at check-in.

To counteract this, we wrote easyJet and specifically asked if the CTC bag would be okay. They said yes. We printed their reply and we also printed the CTC Factsheet on their plastic bike bag to prove that it was a bag designed to transport bikes.

In the end, this was a non-issue. The bikes passed through with no problem. Policies do change however and vary by airline so we advise you to check first before you buy your ticket!

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120 Responses to “Flying With A Bicycle In A Plastic CTC Bag”

  1. portia says:

    I flew using this bag on easyjet bristol – palma. in bristol i had no problems. in palma on arrival they informed me they would not allow it on the return trip as it doesn’t meet easyjet baggage requirements. I had looked into this so I knew it did, I just didn’t bring a copy with me, so fly with this, its great, but definitely take copies of an easyjet approval letter.

  2. Mat says:

    This is a good idea. I have used bike bags and home made boxes before with no hassle at all.

    My point would be:

    - When they see it is a bike they charge more for the transportation. Flybe its £45 for a bike, if it is hidden in a box or bag you can often get away with booking it in as your own baggage £9.99 or whatever they charge nowadays.

    Its a good idea in many respects as it will be quick and easy to sort out on the other side.

    Mat

  3. I did this many years ago on a trip to California. Neither bike was damaged or scratched and I firmly believe that if the contents can be seen, more care will be taken, wheras a parcel is a parcel and will be thrown around.
    In addition to turning the bars etc, I did unscrew the rear deraillieur and wrap it in card so it couldnt get bent.

    • Warning!

      With all due respect to all of you, as a former Airline Captain, I can assure everyone that packing your bike in a plastic bag and then trusting it to the folks behind the counter (and right on down the line to the rampers) is quite likely the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I suppose one worse would be to not include the bag. The vast majority of folks throwing bags could care less about your bike, whether packed in a box, slipped in a bag or otherwise. A properly boxed bicycle (heavy duty box and lots and lots of reinforcing and padding) at least provides a physical barrier between your bike and the variety of malicious opponents that comprise the airline baggage handling system. I always did everything in my power to NEVER allow any of my belongings (bags or otherwise) to get anywhere near the back of the airplane. This plastic bag idea is A VERY BAD IDEA [my apologies for the “upper case” yelling). Maybe some will get lucky. I wouldn’t count on it. Even once. Please think twice.

      No hard feelings! Thanks everybody. :)

      • Friedel says:

        The debate rages on ;) I don’t think we’ll ever see an end to the question of ‘which is best’ but it is interesting to have your view, Kai. Do you think the treatment of luggage perhaps varies by airport and country? I must say, crazy as it sounds, that the bags are quite popular here in Europe and I know many people who have repeatedly used them with success. That said, any time you hand your bike over you lose a bit of control. You can also get unlucky on the road and bend your wheel going over a pothole, so… cross your fingers and hope for the best, sort of like life in general.

      • Phil Somerville says:

        And how does a non pilot ensure their belongings do not get near the back of the plane… And how does a cyclist obtain all the necessary packing when on the road… I wonder why the CTC have adopted the plastic back approach..

      • I think the only real variable is the size of the airport. More things scan go wrong at large airports with more intricate baggage handling systems.

        I would wager that airlines are pushing plastic bags for fuel savings (less weight) – a noble motivation, but not one, I would argue, that is in the best interest of their customers. Of course, airlines employing the plastic bag idea may instruct their rampers to take care. But even with appropriate care, the baggage transportation network at airports (expecially large examples) is rife with pitfalls. The intricate system of belts and pulleys, tugs & trailers, lifts and cargo hatches, plus airplane specific loading requirements simply provide too many pitfalls and thus increased potential for damage. One example – I can’t tell you how many times I watched bags fall off trailers being towed by speeding tugs. The bouncing and cartwheeling was always a good show, as was the length of time it (they) would sit there, marooned on the ramp in the rain and snow, until someone came along and picked it (them) up. Personally, I wouldn’t want my “bike-in-a-bag” to undergo this kind of trauma. In contrast, a properly packed box would prevent any damage in this scenario. And trust me, there are many other scenarios equally as lethal (falling off anything elevated above the ground, getting piled underneath other baggage, tug accident on the ramp). To be clear, the plastic bag concept relies solely on everything going to plan/nothing bad happening. How often do you think this rings true?

        Personally, I don’t ride on airplanes any more. When I did, however, I brought a folding bicycle that fit in a suitcase (Bike Friday). And before I was in the business, my “bike-in-a-suitcase” allowed me to avoid any additional baggage fees plus my bike always arrived in one piece.

        My comment about “…doing everything in my power to never let my personal belongings make it into the back of the airplane,” mostly utilized a practice available to everyone. Pack light – only bring a little bit so you can bring everything with you on board. The minute you check any piece of baggage, its a crapshoot when or even whether you’ll ever see it again. Of course, this won’t work with a bicycle in-tow; I was just lending support to my opposition against letting my bags get out of sight. Google “airline baggage statistics” for some eye-opening data.

        A properly-packed box is a physical buffer between your bike and the complicated baggage handling systems in use at airports. It’s the only anti-damage solution that works 99.9999% of the time. Odds are in your favor with a box. A bag can’t come close to this kind of reliablity. My advice? Depart from your front door – or if you must rely on public transportation – take a train or slip aboard ship. Your bike will thank you. :)

      • Dave says:

        There aren’t many trains or ships available to those of us in New Zealand wanting to go somewhere else…

      • Ilya says:

        Kai, thank you for both of your comments and responceful approach, you’ve helped me to make decision.

      • jake says:

        Well – We used to send racing shells un-packed in plastic so their visibility invites care.

        I think even bag throwers – tired, under-or overpaid – will are for a light bike in clear plastic.

        Go for it.

      • jill says:

        Sad that you say that about your own former company. I
        put my son’s bike on in a simple bag, no issues, handled
        just fine.

  4. Bob Taylor says:

    Beware if flying on KLM – I checked with them regarding a flight from London to Miami for my South Florida Loop in May and was told via email that…

    “A bicycle box is the only officially approved packing for transport aboard KLM flights. KLM bicycle boxes (dimensions: 177 x 23 x 102 cm) can be purchased for EUR 20 in the luggage claim area at most airports. This service needs to be requested at the time of booking and will need to be confirmed prior to departure”

    Very disappointed as the CTC bag was ideal in both ease and cost!

    • friedel says:

      Ah, that is a shame. KLM of all airlines (being Dutch and very familiar with bikes) should theoretically be easy to get along with!

    • tastest says:

      For shame on KLM( arent they Dutch??) with more bikes than people in their country.

      Two years ago, we flew to France with Air Canada.They charged us mega bucks each way for the bikes AND gave us a hassle re bike plastic bags.
      This time, we are flying Air Transat to Europe. They have a very clear equipment policy on their web site and the charge of $30 each way per bike includes a bag from Air Transat.

      • Lasha says:

        How did things go with Air Transat and the clear plastic bag? Would love to hear if you had success.

  5. Rik says:

    Random thought: If you chose to use a box, or *had* to use a box, you could sketch a bike on the sides with a marker pen. Best of both?

    • friedel says:

      I’ve seen this before and I suppose it can’t hurt but I wonder if the rushed baggage handler really stops to look? With a bag, it’s more or less impossible for them to pile stuff on top of the bike, or at least a lot less easy than with a box.

  6. Becky says:

    We’ve used plastic and we’ve use the bike bag (http://www.bikebag.de/). When we used the bike bag, we watched in horror as the baggage handle threw the bikes onto the belt to be loaded on the plane.
    When we flew Air Canada with our bikes, we arrived and they provided the bag for us.
    One word of caution though – try not to put pedals or any other important piece of equipment in your checked luggage (pedals can often be put on the inside of the opposite crack – we had our bikes arrive safely but one of our bags didn’t. We were lucky that we had everything we needed with us – except Scott’s bike shorts – that’s another tip, pack a pair of shorts in each of your bags, so if one doesn’t make it, you still have your essentials.

    • friedel says:

      Good tips Becky! I suppose you can’t always guard against everything though. We were told that our multi-tool was okay by the security guards on duty at the time, but might not be allowed through security by other airports. Similarly, our pedals have spikey cleats, so they had to go in a checked bag.

      • David says:

        My pedal spanner was deemed a weapon at Cologne airport, despite having no particularly sharp parts. I argued that my laptop would probably be more dangerous if I decided to hit someone with the corner of it, but no, because it was metal and ‘tool-like’, I had to throw it away. Which made getting my pedals back on at the other side slightly frustrating. At least I could screw them on loosely by hand. Very frustrating though.

        Oh and for the record, does anyone know what proportion of airports actually sell bike boxes? At Cologne airport, they didn’t sell such a thing (neither the airlines or the airport facility itself), nor did they have any concept of why I would expect them to sell one. They were baffled but suggested I speak to lost property to see if they could help. Luckily they had some spare plastic to wrap around the bike to satisfy the airline’s requirement of a bike bag. Crisis averted, but next time I’ll be taking a CTC bike bag, that’s for sure. Relying on the airport/airlines having something is heart-attack inducing. :)

      • friedel says:

        Yes, pedal spanners should always go in your checked baggage. Usually our multi-tool gets through okay, but we were told once that even it could be confiscated if security felt it was a risk. Strangely enough, frying pans were no problem!

  7. Doug Nienhuis says:

    I think putting your bike in a bag like this is far better than boxing it for all the reasons you mentioned: It’s faster and easier. You don’t have to find a box or worry about finding a box or build your own box. Best of all, it opens up the possibility of just riding your bike to the airport when it’s time to fly. Packing a bike in a box is usually done at home or in a hotel room. That can be a gargantuan task, and then you have to somehow find an airport bus or taxi or shuttle that will take your huge bike box. Having to use a bus or taxi to get to or from the airport takes away one of the great things about cycling – that you don’t need to rely on evil buses or taxis.

    I wouldn’t be at all worried about damage to a bike when it’s inside a bag. My bike has suffered far more damage from being in a box than it ever did while actually riding it on tour. Baggage handlers have always just laid the box flat and then piled suitcases on top of it. They wouldn’t be able to do that if the bike were in a plastic bag.

    The worst instance for me was on Air France. My bike-in-a-box actually went missing for a couple of days. Then when it showed up, it looked like it had been stomped on by elephants. The cardboard was ripped open down one side and the rear wheel was bent completely out of shape. The cardboard box hadn’t protected the bike in any way. I think the opposite is true: It just opened it up to serious abuse and damage. A bag would have been far better.

    Having said that, however, I’ve almost always put my bike in a box for the simple reason that all the airlines I’ve flown with (and a train in Canada) REQUIRED me to box up the bike. They won’t accept it any other way. Only once did I fly with an airline that said it was okay not to box the bike. I was nervous about it and checked their website a dozen times and I called the airline to double-check. I was told very clearly that I didn’t have to box the bike. But, sure enough, when I got to the check-in counter at the airport, they told me the bike had to be boxed. I told them about their own airline policy and how I had talked to the airline to confirm it, but the people at the check-in counter followed their own rules.

    It goes against my instincts, but it almost seems better to simply ignore the official airline rules and do what you want. In this last case, the airline eventually accepted my unboxed bike after a frantic thirty minutes of covering it up with torn pieces of cardboard and packing tape. I have a feeling that nearly every airline will say in their fine print somewhere that bikes have to be in boxes. But if you just show up with a bike and put it in a bag, perhaps they will be forced to accommodate you. It’s a big risk to take, though.

  8. Jonathan Bainbridge says:

    Hi, hmm i’ve never thought of doing this but it makes sense that if the baggage handlers can see it’s a bike rather than just another box they may treat it with a little more respect; i’ll try this next time.

    I’ve flown with my bike in a bike bag many times before both shorthaul and long haul all with bike bags. Years ago I found my bike on the bottom of a trolley with 5 bikes stacked on top of it, thankfully my pride and joy was just fine however! However on a recent trip back from New Zealand I wasn’t so lucky and both my pannier rack and my forks were damaged even though I spent a couple of hours the night before carefully packing it away in its bike bag.

    No matter how you pack it though i think you’ll always have that ‘butterfly’ feeling in your stomach as you wait in the baggage reclaim for your bike to arrive safely – will it arrive in one piece!?!?! :o)

  9. simon says:

    hi A&F, good to hear from you, just to add about air travel i had my bike damaged both ways nz to london by singapore airlines and it was in a bike box.
    they tried to charge me $600 for freight but after an hours bebate i transfered weight from luggage and got it free out of nz and the return trip they didnt ask for any fee.great airline for me but not my bike.
    any tricks on back ache from cycling?
    simon kiwi nz

  10. Malcolm Liddle says:

    I’ve only ever taken bikes on Ryanair or easyjet and have used less packaging each time. Started with just sheets od cardboard that we taped and zippied on to wheels and gears. The last time we came back from Stockholm we bought some cheap black bin liners and wrapped round the whheels and gears. The checkin person didn’t like it much but her only bsanction was to put a sticker on the bikes saying that she thought the packing was substandard and gewtting us to sign a disclaimer form. We’ve suffered no damage so far.
    Our main trouble has always been locating the obscure area of the airport that they’ve left the bikes on arrival

  11. Helena says:

    Thanks for posting this article! I hadn’t even thought of using a plastic bag and was dreading lugging a cardboard box to the airport before my trip this summer – but this made me think. I’ve checked the airlines requirements (Air NZ) and am pleased to see that a plastic bag is fine.

    • Andrew says:

      I brought my mountain bike over from New Zealand to the UK flying Air NZ. It was by chance that I noticed the free 10kg “Sporting Equipment” allowance (including bikes) and thought “why not!”. My bike was just sitting in my parents garage. I tried a bike box but just couldn’t get it to fit nicely, so on a friends advice just wrapped the frame in bubble wrap and left the wheels exposed (the idea being that I could wheel it around still). Although I had covered all the greasy bits the friendly check-in lady said the wheels also needed to be covered, but I had some spare bubble wrap and tape with me just in case. When I got to Heathrow the bike was handed to me 100% damage free (after a slightly anxious wait). I ripped off the rear wheel wrapping, made a handle (hole in front wheel wrapping) and wheeled it onto the Tube, train and home to Colchester! The plastic bag would be much easier than all the bubble wrapping I did!

      Not sure if Air NZ still offer the free 10kg allowance though. This was over a year ago.

      • Dave says:

        Hi Andrew,
        I think they count it as an item of baggage now, which mean’s you’ve gotta pay a bit extra if you’re in economy want to take another bag for stuff like, you know, clothes..
        The charges flying out of NZ are NZD20 domestic and NZD75 international.

      • Jonathan Bainbridge says:

        I know it’s a long way round but on some airlines (I flew Virgin/Air NZ), if you go via the U.S (I had a lovely few days in San Francisco on my way back from NZ) you get to take two items of hold luggage for free. One of these items can be a bike as long as it’s less than 20kg!

      • Dave says:

        I think AirNZ’s changed their policy (as of May 2010) so that now its the same everywhere that they fly- including the states.

  12. Stephen says:

    Doug Nienhuis makes a very good point – I really enjoy arriving at an airport, reassembling the bike, and riding off to find the adventure. So far, I’ve once ridden to an airport (more about that in a moment), but mostly have had to take taxi or train.
    When I first travelled with a bike – from Dubai of all places, but perhaps luckily so because we were all naive together – I just turned up at the airport with bike and panniers and we worked it out, with some laughter and many bemused looks! There was no damage and no problem, except when security insisted on putting it through the large X-ray machine and it fell over, so one of them had to crawl in to sort things out!
    Since then I thought I’ve been more cautious. I’ve tried using a soft, Goretex envelope (designed for bikes). This meant I could cycle to the airport, and dismantle the bike and pack into the bag. Ideal, and the bag folds into a small-ish package that I stored at the bottom of a pannier (or in the trailer bag). But this is no longer my favourite idea; it’s both soft, hence not much protection, and anonymous.The bag has holes worn in it, it’s not that easy for airline staff to handle, and not much else can be fitted into the bag.
    For me, boxes have been OK, tho’ the last one arrived in tatters in Vienna. That was partly poor taping on my part, and the return trip was better. At least quite a lot of other gear can be fitted into the box, which reduces the shear number of bits’n’pieces to handle.
    So, based on this range of experiences, I’d have to agree – when the bike is visible as a bike, it stands a good chance of being treated with some respect. I will try this clear plastic bag, armed with a letter from the airline, even tho’ it does mean having 5 or more pieces of luggage to manage.

    • friedel says:

      Stephen, I should have taken a picture of what we do with our panniers afterwards! You’re right, in a box you can put some stuff in the box like sleeping bags and mats (though technically you’re not supposed to according to most airlines). When we travel by air – with a box or a bag – we always put our check-in luggage into these Chinese shopping bags. They’re durable, cheap and universally available. They also make a good ‘door mat’ outside the tent to catch mud and other dirt ;)

  13. I fully agree that a plastic bag is the only way to go! I’ve never protected the derailleur before but I certainly will next time.

    I do chock the front wheels straight with a bungee cord though. The only time I’ve ever had damage was when the wheel got turned in the bag and something heavy got thrown on it. I have a little on packing a bike on my website:
    http://tourcycle.ca/takingbike.html

  14. Roy Sinclair says:

    I did many trips with bike in Groundeffect Tardis bag with no issues. Then I returned to NZ from Zurich with my Dahon TR. Swiss charged me 200 CHF to carry the bike to my connecting Qantas flight at Frankfurt.
    Arriving home my Dahon had considerable damage. A query to Qantas customer Care was treated with complete non-interest, despite being as long-time frequent flier. Customer Care was DON’T CARE. So wouldn’t recommend either airline for traveling with bike.

    Plastic bag seems a good idea. I will try it.

    The famous round-the-world-cyclist, Anne Mustoe, would wheel her bicycle to the check-in and demand they take it as it is. She was mostly successful.

  15. on april 15th 2011 i will begin my attempt to beat the guinness world record for fastest global circimnavigation by bicycle. i believe i have worked out most issues that will come up but was dreading the whole find a box, box the bike, cross the fingers, fly to next leg of the ride, unbox the bike, put bike back together bit. i do a lot of touring and have had many negative experiences directly related to using boxes. Doug really explained that whole senerio well. having to taxi to motel or from motel to airport. a real bummer compared to riding to and from airports. using a bag will save me loads of time and energy. its a bit extra weight to carry the whole 29000kms but worth it if it saves me all that time. I will definatly check with the airlines and print copies of airline policy replies to my queries first though.

  16. i am a tad nervous though as the frame is carbon fiber and its a recumbent to boot. still, probably safer if handlers can see it. had never read about or considered a bag before.
    http://www.globebent.org thanks for the tip

    • Carbon fiber frame+world tour with lots of flights=Yikes!
      Good luck!

      • haha ya like i said, bit nervous. guess we’ll see. fingers crossed.

      • Bruce says:

        Decided on an aluminum framed bacchetta corsa instead. It’s one pound heavier but probably more likely to survive the 5 flights it’s going to take for me to complete my ride. Still waffling on this issue of box vs bag. Though I’m leaning towards the wise words of retired pilot, Kai Mikkel Forlie. Especially after googling “airline baggage statistics” as he suggested.

  17. Tabitha says:

    What about the panniers? I am planning a trip to Portugal from London, taking my bike and both rear and front panniers. I’ve never flown with my bike before and am wondering how the airline will react to me handing over checked luggage consisting of four pieces. Do they expect you to tie them up together to act as one? I’m using a cheap airline that stipulates only one piece of checked luggage per person, plus hand luggage of limited size (EasyJet). Do airlines make allowances for cyclists who obviously cannot cycle with a suitcase? Thanks for your expertise!

    • Friedel says:

      Hi Tabitha, if you read through the comments (about 5 above this one), you’ll see a link I left to what we call our ‘Chinese shopping bags’. You can find them in dollar stores all over the world. They’re great for combining 2-3 panniers in one airline-checkable bag.

  18. Nigel says:

    Hi,

    I am a baggage handler.

    I really don’t think it makes much difference in what you pack your beloved bike in, it is all about the person handling it and there attitude to the job, simple!

    I work at a small regional hub been Newquay, UK, where everyone knows each other and has a vested interest in the tourism as its linked to there jobs. Large airports…hmmm! I have travelled with Air Namibia with a padded bike bag, the frame was dented, luckily it’s steel so more cosmetic, now it’s a feature of it’s travels!

    I will put the big question, box it, padded bag it or clear bag it to my fellow handlers!

    Nigel

    • Bruce says:

      Nigel, you’ve left us hanging. What was the final consensous to the bog question? Though I think vie made up my mind to risk the clear plastic bag with the airlines that will allow that.

    • Bruce says:

      Nigel, you’ve left us hanging. What was the final consensous to the big question? Though I think vie made up my mind to risk the clear plastic bag with the airlines that will allow that.

  19. Bruce says:

    Haha, just the person to clear this up. I will be very interested to see what your coworkers have to say on the subject. Is there anyway to convey to the baggage handlers to please handle my beloved bike with utmost care? Say…if you read on side of bike bag…
    Dear baggage handlers. This tired bike is attempting to propel it’s rider around the planet. It still has a long way to go. Please handle with kid gloves. Would that insight a negative or positive response? What would you write on bike bag?

  20. Nigel Francis says:

    Clear bag.

  21. Nigel Francis says:

    Hi,

    OK, hopefully a definitive answer! We only operate from a small regional airport (Newquay, Cornwall) but I have a colleaguee who has worked at larger airports which use the container boxes used on the larger jets.

    Cardboard Box: Will offer more protection but the consensus is, some baggage handlers will not even consider what might be in there and just handle more firmly (throw!), with also the chance of bags been placed on top. Not ideal.

    Hard Case: The perfect answer but no good for the touring cyclist. Unless returning to the same airport on departure and it can be stored there.

    Padded Bag: Again falls into the same category as the case. I had my bike in a padded bag and it still got a dent in the frame, luckily steel so only cosmetic damage.

    CTC Clear Plastic Bag: The overhaul agreement is, if we know what it is, it would be treated with some care. All attempts would be made to place the bike on top of bags in a cargo hold last. Ideally suggested to pad the front dropouts (rag/pipe insulation) and protect the rear mech. The Dash, ATR, CRJ etc…. (regional) type aircraft, it is easier for the handler to stand the bike up once bags are in. The bike is then seen first by the handler on landing. If the aircraft is a CRJ, 737 or A320 type then a baggage belt will be used. If so the bike will generally be placed on it, it could get knocked, belts are not particularly wide but are slow, so not really a concern. It would also be prudent when travelling to or from some countries or continents (Africa) to remove everything (pump, lights etc..) that looks Gucci! it will go walk about otherwise!

    Aircraft types been; Dash series, ATR, CRJ series, generally all smaller regional aircraft and 737 to Airbus A320 size. These are all hand loaded, no containers. 757-767-777 and up, A300, A330, A340 and up all containered aircraft.

    Container aircraft the bike will be placed on top of the bags in the container, if they can see it is a bike it generally will be treated accordingly. If it is in a box it might be forced into a smaller opening or placed in first and bags placed on top. Then you are looking at something like 500-700kg pushing down on the box/bike, not ideal!

    As with anywhere human nature can take its toll!

    I hope this insight helps.

    Regards,

    Nigel

    • friedel says:

      Nigel, this is really fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with the community.

    • wow, thanks for this. it helps me emmensely with my decision and puts my mind at ease too. it will be so nice to be able to ride to the airport and prepare the bike for baggage without having to track down a box and 2 rolls of tac tape. especially since i would be needing to do this 5 separate times on this global ride. i will take your advice, forego the note to baggage handlers and spend that energy wrapping the easily damaged bits instead. i just might copy your letter and bring it with me too.
      thanks again.. happy trails.

  22. Nigel Francis says:

    PS: feel free to right something on the box but be-warned you might also get some sarky comment written next to it as it comes on the carousel all intent of embarrassing you around your waiting fellow travellers! :-)

  23. Rik says:

    @Nigel
    Awesome! I might actually print this and take it with me whenever I’m likely to need to persuade check-in staff that a clear bag is the way to go. Thanks.

  24. Doug W says:

    Thank you Nigel. That was very helpful! And I agree, Rik. I’m going to print this and bring it with me too.

  25. Thank you Nigel. A great help to all of us :-)

  26. Dave Holladay says:

    I’ve been working with CTC on cycles with public transport issues for many years, and add the following notes.

    The CTC polyethene sack is 500 gauge material – almost the thickest conventionally available from those making pipe repair liners and water barriers for the construction industry, CTC sourced this when British Airways stopped issuing an equivalent product free to cyclists, and wheelchair users. It is also useful for other sporting equipment when travelling by air.

    Easyjet did for some time have a picture of a bike in the CTC bag on their website and the procedures manual for baggage handling contractors, and on more than one occasion this page has been shown to staff at the airport to prove that the bag is (or was?) an accepted form of packing for a cycle.

    About 5 years ago we had a major hiatus with Easyjet concerning hydraulic brakes and suspension, when CAA issued new guidance on carrying certain liquids (intended to apply to CONTAINERS of said liquids, than could leak into the aircraft hold). Perhaps the major issue was that the cycling holiday businesses which would have been affected represented a market in travel and accommodation worth €- millions per year.

    Most important though is to remember that it is not the airline which deals with baggage at the airport – it is the baggage (and often full ground handling services) contractor. Over the years the CTC help desk and I have noted some distinct trends – Stansted notoriously stands head & shoulders above other UK airports as the most likely place you will have a problem – I think the principal contractor these is Menzies. Liverpool JL is also a regular source of complaints. I would greatly appreciate details of the contractors and their performance across the UK (Servisair/Aviance etc). Some smaller airports will even have passengers carrying their out of gauge/special handling bags to the plane

    In such a piece it is worth highlighting the Warsaw Convention on Air Passengers Rights (1929) and the current Montreal Convention which has largely superceded the 1929 one

    We have a similar problem with Eurostar – the London check in insists on folded and bagged folding bikes, and can be fazed by conventional machines reduced to the permitted size (90 x 120cm) and bagged up yet in Brussels we heve regular feedback that you simply wheel the bike through and fold it at the train. In 2009 I left the Velo City conference and thanks to a puncture and local riot. arrived at Brussel Sud less than 5 minutes before my train was due to depart – and I still made it – heading up the ramp with 2 minutes to reach the train. Since simplifying the booking service for bikes travelling assembled (max length 2.0m) the number of £20 bookings has risen by over 900% on the figures from 2007, when the change took place, shortly after the move to the new London Terminus

    Bikes in bags packed flat and dismantled/folded to produce a compact package are also accepted on National Express coaches and Stagecoach coach services, and can circumvent the pain of cycle reservations on rail services. I only paid the £3 reservation charge twice when travelling by rail in the late 1980′s, by using a fixed wheel bike and a groundsheet – fast to dismantle wheels, saddle & bars from frame and wrap all in a large ‘portfolio’ package. NB some coach services do accept bikes naked if there is no risk of damage to other luggage/the coach – Oxford Tube services have around 3% of passengers on commuter services travelling with bikes, and in some parts of rural Scotland up to 20% of seats (10 bikes) can be filled by kids travelling with bikes to local bike trails.

    Just been tracking Charlotte Barnes trip down under with her Penny – first on Piccadilly line to LHR then check-in – no problem – along with 3 surf boards. Awaiting news of HKG to Oz journey – I think there should be pics of several Pennies travelling on Central Line – Mile End to Ealing.

    If you are doing any such trips do count bikes and total number of passengers on the bus/train/plane. Off peak rail typically 10% = bikes general figure 3%. Just did a spot 5 min count at Waterloo Station – over 40 bikes plus more cyclists (in bike gear) going to bike racks = 500+ bikes per hour. Send in via CTC

  27. Dave Holladay says:

    Oops – PS the Montreal Convention and Limited Liability release waiver.

    This basically sets the terms for compensation paid if an airline kills you or damages you or your luggage. A limited release is what you may be asked to sign before your bike is accepted for carriage by air. It basically says you accept that your bike is a fragile item and might get damaged and you thus release the airline from certain liabilities relating to damage or loss…. Not that the compensation rates set (per Kg) are any great shakes for a light and valuable item like a bike.

    Read the conditions of carriage for luggage and you can find some gems – Air Canada did for a while remove the Limited Release condition if the bike was presented in a hard case – read that small print!

    We’ve also had a case of a member using Jet 2 from Leeds (sorry Yeadon near Leeds) airport where the bikes required for a holiday were not packed on the flight they took and then did not follow on a subsequent flight as promised. The airline offered no payment for a substantial loss on accommodation bookings and enjoyment, only refunding the bike booking fees. the case was pursued though a low cost household policy legal assistance add-on product.

  28. Andy says:

    ctc clear bag it is :)

  29. Dominique says:

    We spent an ‘interesting’ fortnight in Nadi, Fiji some years ago, having my rear wheel re-built after packing our bikes in plastic bags on our British Airways Flight.

    We arrived at some unholy hour only to discover it had been buckled beyond recognition enroute. Getting it from the airport to a hostel was also an experience that will remain with me for some time….at least BA finally paid for the replacement.

    The moral of this tale…who knows? I guess in reality a cardboard box offers little more protection than a bit of plasic so it’s probably the luck of the draw:-)

  30. Andrew says:

    I am new to cycle touring and needed to transport my bike from Helsinki to London using Easyjet. My answer was to obtain a cardboard box from a bike shop (the ones shiny new bikes are delivered in), I used Easyjets ‘sporting goods’ addition which weemed good value. After much disassembly and duct tape I had it packed, this took a long time to complete. It turned out to be quite a heavy & cumbersome package to transport around (I had added a few extra bits in the box, which you’re not really supposed to do). I was expecting problems at check in with a box of that weight and size, but the only hardship I had was to wheel it a little further to the relevant doorway.
    On arrival everything was in order, the bike was in the same condition as when it left, although the box had been opened and re-sealed by security, your option of the clear bag would have saved a lot of time and energy on packing, transport and airport checks… its very clear what is in the bag, no need for the airline to open it and no chance of bits and pieces going missing.

  31. Andrew says:

    Ps. Really good thread. Lots of useful information. Thank you.

  32. Bruce says:

    Statistics show that for the month of December, depending on the airline, there were between 2 and 10 damaged luggage reports per 1000 passengers. So only .2 to 1%. doesn’t sound to bad when related in those terms. But it amounted to 222,909 reports of damaged luggage.

    I couldn’t find any statistics directly relating to damaged bicycles.
    My buddy and I fly to the states once or twice a year for a bike tour, then fly home again. We have been doing this for 9 yrs now. I think 12 trips. So 24 flights x 2. We’ve always used boxes but until recently, I didn’t know bags were an option. However, despite being well boxed, we have both had our bikes damaged twice. The last time my buddies was ruined.(he did get compensation for it and it was on the return flight so not so bad).
    We’ve had the boxes returned to us in horrible shape many times, have had them misplaced for days as well as not show up on same flight. I would love to believe that using a bag could somehow decrease the odds of this happening, and I would love to be able to just ride to the airport and slip the bike in a bag. No more calling bike shops, searching for boxes. I’d like to think that a handler seeing the bike through the bag would cause him to use more care but then I saw the passenger count for the statistic I noted above… 46,441,509. That’s a lot a baggage man. How carful is a guy going to be when every day is met with that kind of colossal situation.

    • friedel says:

      Well, it is more than just 1 man handling those 46 million pieces of baggage :) I also think bikes usually don’t go through quite the same path as the normal luggage. They go as oversized luggage or sometimes even that is bypassed. Coming back from Spain, for example, we took our bikes to a door that opened directly to the area where the planes were parked and they were then put directly on the cart that went to the plane.

      In any case, this is truly one of those “never ending” debates and there is no “definite” answer. So much depends on luck and the airports / airlines you use. Everyone should do what they’re comfortable with. We’re happy taking our chances with bags but can certainly appreciate that not everyone agrees.

  33. Nigel Francis says:

    One last add, as a baggage handler and commercial pilot (not presently flying!). As Friedel has mentioned anything that is not normal luggage etc… goes through what is called ‘out-of-gauge’. Bikes will go through this corridor as separate scanning machines will come into use. If you do feel you are more comfortable with your bike in a box, you had better wrap it thoroughly, otherwise it will be treated as just a box. Do not be illusional that a fragile tag is going to get you out of trouble either, forget it, even on bags. With holds of aircraft generally dimly lit and the tags generally red, ask any pilot worth his salt, red does not show in the dark. Let the handler see it, bag it!

  34. Shane says:

    I’ve always said the biggest downside of a box is that people lie it down and throw suitcases ontop of it.

    I saw a great example today at work why you’d want to use a box….

    3 bikes exited the plane, the first, without a box got placed on a baggage car, the other 2 in boxes then got thrown ontop of the the first bike.

    Not nice but thats just the way some people work at airports…..

    • Friedel says:

      Oooooooh. This hurts to hear. I guess this just proves that there are no “magic” solutions. To a certain extent, you always depend on the skills and kindness (or calousness) of the people handling the bike.

  35. Matt says:

    Hi –

    Just to add an anecdote to this thread – my partner and I flew with EasyJet from Gatwick South to Bordeaux last week with our bikes packed in CTC poly-bags.

    Initially, the ground staff at Gatwick wouldn’t accept them – we had to pull out a copy of their T&C’s and a printout of the CTC “this is a bike-bag” flyer before they’d accept them.

    No real problem – the staff were nice, just not sure what to do.

    We did have to seal them up before checking them, and then unseal and reseal for the security check.

    The problem came when we arrived at Bordeaux – the valve on the rear tyre of my bike had been snapped off and my partner’s rear wheel had been buckled and could not be moved – you could clearly see a big gash in the rim where something had hit it.

    At 21.30 on a (rainy!) Friday night this was an unexpected problem – we didn’t travel with a spare rim and we’d taken a puncture repair kit rather than a spare inner tube! Long story short it all worked out – we were only staying ~1km from the airport and there was a bike shop open the next morning a further ~1km away where we got things fixed.

    The flight back (again with EasyJet but this time from Montpellier to Gatwick South) was fine – ground staff at Montpellier had no problem with the CTC bags and were fine checking things in.

    So just a note of caution really – if you’re going to go the CTC bag route, it might be worthwhile making sure you know where the nearest bike shop is at the other end in case things go a bit wrong!

    I’ll be claiming the cost of repairs from EasyJet (made more difficult by the fact that we couldn’t report it at the time – our bikes were the last things off the plane and by that time there were no ground staff around!) so if anyone’s interested, I’m happy to report on the success or otherwise of the process.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  36. Bob Taylor says:

    I’ve just got back from a short bike tour in Florida, and used the CTC bike bag to get my bike from London to Miami and back without any problems whatsoever! I flew with Virgin Atlantic who took the bike as a piece of sporting equipment, in addition to my regular baggage allowance, at no extra cost!

    As instructed, I turned the handlebars parallel with the frame, took off the pedals, let the air out of the tyres and wrapped the rear derailleur with cardboard. I then protected my Brooks saddle and the main parts of the frame with some cloth, put the bike in the bag, taped it up, and it was ready to go.

    I took a spare bag with me for the return journey, just to be safe, but other than a couple of small nic’s, the original bag was fine to use again for the return flight. There were a couple of small splits at the end of the return flight so I wouldn’t use the same bag again, but the bags are so cheap I’m happy to buy one for each new tour.

    All in all, using the bag was a quick simple process that I would definitely use again!

  37. sz says:

    I wonder if I could wrap my panniers and packsack in a such a bag or thick plastic sheet, with a bit of duct tape here and there to close it securely, and check them in as single piece of luggage?

    BTW, it seems that these plastic bags are no longer available at wiggle following the link in the article’s header.

    • friedel says:

      SZ, I’m sure you could also pack your panniers that way, as long as you could secure the plastic well enough that it would stay together despite the weight inside. Maybe use some string as well? Or just get some of these super sturdy and cheap bags for your panniers.

      You’re right about the Wiggle link. I’m asking CTC about the bag now. Will let you know.

      • sz says:

        Yeah, I read about that bag, but I haven’t managed to find such a bag around here yet, that’s why I’m trying to find a plan B. I plan to strap the panniers together with the straps I’ll use to secure the packsack to the racks. Those are like your yellow straps, should be strong enough, but haven’t actually tried whether it works out. I’m also worried that the resulting big package won’t have any handle, but I saw cardboard boxes as checked-in luggage, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Other drawback of this plastic wrap-up idea is that my pocket knife will be inside one of the wrapped-up panniers. I guess that will make cutting duct tape a bit of a challenge (;

        And a breaking news for tomorrow morning: it turns out that my bike is almost 3 (three!) centimeters taller than the maximum allowed bike height, so I’ll have to take the front wheel off.

        Oh, the fun already started way before the trip (;

      • sz says:

        Just to follow up: I flew from Frankfurt am Main, Germany to Keflavík, Iceland and back, and
        - I could bring the handlebar bag and one rear pannier as carry-on baggage on board
        - check in the remaining three panniers and the packsack as separate luggages without any problems (i.e. “How many luggage do you have?” “Um, well, four and a bicycle.” “OK.”)
        - no one complained about my bike being 3cm higher and wrapped in plastic foil (from a nearby gardening store) instead of put in a cardboard box
        - and everything arrived without significant damage

  38. friedel says:

    The bag is now available again through Wiggle. I think it was just temporarily out of stock.

  39. Lyn says:

    Further to the points above about KLM, here is their official policy pasted below – I’d challenge them if told only their own bike box was suitable as it clearly states “suitable packaging or a bike box” and seems to add in their own boxes for the information of customers rather than as a rule. “Suitable packaging” would surely include a standard bike bag, at the least, or even the CTC bag as it’s sanctioned by a cycling organisation:

    **
    Bicycles and tandems

    You can take your bicycle or tandem with you in suitable packaging or a bike box. The handlebars should be turned lengthways along the frame, pedals and other protruding parts should be removed, and tyre pressures should be reduced. Special KLM bike boxes are available at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for EUR 20 each (170 x 23 x 100 cm – 66.5 x 9 x 39 inches). The KLM bike box weighs 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs). On small aircraft types it may not be possible to bring a tandem.

    Always make a reservation for your special baggage at least 48 hours before departure, and ensure your reservation is confirmed. On small aircraft types it may not be possible to bring a tandem.

    A bike counts as a single piece of baggage. You only pay an excess baggage fee if you take your bicycle on top of your standard baggage allowance, and/or if it weighs more than 23 kg (50.5 lbs).

    For a tandem you will need to pay a special baggage fee.

    • friedel says:

      Thanks Lyn. I’d print these out if I were flying KLM, for extra ooomph at the check-in desk. Ultimately though, and frustratingly, you’re at the mercy of the check-in people and their good humour.

  40. JimP says:

    Hi

    I’d just like to share my experiences with you.
    I went to Greece this year with EasyJet. I had the usual problem of being required to put my bike in a “padded bike bag”, which I can’t carry with me on my trip. I came across this discussion and ordered one of these CTC poly bags. I also emailed EasyJet and asked them if the bag complies. Here is their reply:

    Thank you for contacting us.

    On further investigation, I regret to inform you that this type of bag will not be accepted for travel. easyJet only accept bicycles that are boxed or in a bag that is padded. I apologise for the inconvenience this may cause.

    The reason that it will need to be padded or boxed is to try and minimise the damage that could be caused to your bicycle or the aircraft.

    If you have any more queries please do not hesitate in contacting me directly.

    Yours sincerely,

    This response was obviously bad news, but I decided to comply with their regulations by putting the bike in a bike box. However, this created a really large package so I phoned EasyJet up to see if there were any regulations about the size of baggage. There was, and my bike-in-a-box was too big. I explained my problem and they said that I could carry my bike on the plane if I padded it as best I could – and they left a message with my reservation in case I had problems at the check-in desk. This really shows how the reply you get can depend on the person you talk to, and when you get a positive response it’s best to ask them to keep a record of it with the reservation!
    I decided to wrap my bicycle with loads of bubble wrap and pipe insulation, and save the CTC bag in good condition for the return journey. Initially, when I arrived at the check-in desk, they said they couldn’t accept the bike packed in that way. But when they read the note in my reservation, they agreed to accept the bike. On arrival in Thessaloniki, the bike was in perfect condition.
    On the way back, I wrapped the bike in pipe insulation and used the CTC poly bag. This time, the check in staff accepted the bike without any questions. However, when the bike arrived in Paris, the back wheel was completely trashed, leaving me with the problem of how to get to town to repair it with a bicycle with no back wheel and four bags to lug around. In the end I found a kind taxi driver who was prepared to help me, but I could have been in a very difficult situation.
    I have put my bike on planes many times – and this is the first time I have had a problem. In the past, I have simply wheeled the bike to the check-in desk (with or without pipe lagging) and, I imagine, the handlers have known how to deal with it like that. But I wonder whether the design of the CTC poly bag was the problem here. The handlers had no way of wheeling the bike, and standing it up was difficult so they resorted to lying it flat, and maybe putting stuff on top of it too. I know that a lot of people have had success with this bag, but in the future I will either find a plane company that will let me carry the bike as is, or take the ferry or train. I certainly won’t be trusting the CTC poly bag again, unless someone can tell me what I did wrong.

    • Friedel says:

      Hi Jim, sorry you didn’t have much luck with the bag. We’ve also heard of bikes in boxes getting trashed, so I think any plane trip with a bike involves a certain degree of good luck, and hope that the handlers know how to deal with a bike.

      And you’re right about the policy of an airline varying depending on who you talk to. We flew with easyJet to Spain and got 3 replies from different areas of the company (Facebook page, customer service line, etc…) saying the CTC bag was an accepted way of packing a bicycle.

      Did you file a claim for damages to easyJet? There’s a comment from ‘Matt’ above… where he got money back for a damaged bicycle.

  41. JimP says:

    I didn’t file a complaint because the baggage company told me that as I hadn’t opted for extra insurance, EasyJet wouldn’t pay. However, they did provide me with a certificate to send to my personal insurance company. We’ll see if it works – I only got back from Greece yesterday so I haven’t had time to deal with it yet.
    Concerning your boxed bikes, it really does seem that handlers need to know they’re dealing with a bike, and they need to be able to store the bike upright and not lay it flat. Maybe if the CTC bag had slots in the bottom for the wheels?

    • Friedel says:

      You could try with easyJet anyway, you might get lucky! Not much to lose anyway. Best of luck with it. We hate flying with bicycles. Too much stress, but sometimes there´s no way around it.

  42. Rob says:

    Just flew with Etihad Airways from Istanbul to Tokyo (with a change over at Abu Dhabi). My bicycle was boxed, cost around £10 (30TL) to buy all the bits in Istanbul to safely box it. They didn’t actually weigh it as part of my baggage allowance (it must be 14kg or so). It plus the 9kg bag I checked in was probably just on my limit. I then carried on another 9kg, more than the 7kg limit.

    It does have a gouge in the bottom, but not near any part of the bike. I’ll be sealing that up again with duck tape. And one of the carry holds has torn open quite a bit, again will fix that with duck tape.

    I did have a CTC bag, but gave it to someone else. My plans changed, am in Japan for 2 weeks as a break before going across China. So being boxed I can get on the bullet trains etc… without any problems. It’s quite a slog carrying everything though!

    I’m flying China Eastern from Osaka to Shanghai. They’ve got really stingy allowances though. 20kg check-in, and 5kg carry-on. I’ll be putting my cycle shoes (700g) in the box this time. Am shipping some bits home, but I’ll check-in one pannier with 8kg, and carry-on a 5kg one, and sneak my bar bag along with that (another 1.5kg). I’ll probably be 3-4kg over the limit but hopefully they won’t notice!

    My checked-in Ortleib Backroller survived ok on the last flight. Had been opened though, I could tell as they hadn’t rolled it very well. So for the next flight I’ll be changing how it’s packed so that nothing can drop out even with a bad roll.

    • Rob says:

      Just as an updated my flight with China Eastern went without a problem. Was actually smoother than Etihad.

      The bike box weighed 20kg, I had no idea! Although I did put my locks, shoes, and tape tools etc to the bike. Plus it was well protected.

      They didn’t charge me any excess. In fact the pannier that I checked in as well was 6kg. They were on the scales clearly showing 26kg and the girl didn’t do anything.

      Bike arrived undamaged in Shanghai.

      What was more fun was carrying the boxed bike and panniers on the metro in Shanghai. I managed to block up a scanning conveyor belt machine with the bike box.

      My schedule is a bit mucked up at the moment so having to fly more than I want to. Next flight is Hong Kong to Bangkok with Sri Lankan Airlines.

    • Rob says:

      I’ve flown a few more flights.

      Hong Kong > Bangkok with Sri Lanka Airlines
      Bangkok > Phuket with Thai Airlines

      On both occasions the bike was unboxed, not even in a plastic bag. They accepted it, and it arrived ok with just a few scuff marks on the frame.

      I turned the handle bars, removed the pedals, removed the reach mech, dropped the seat post and took off my trusty Brooks saddle.

      I did find quite possibly the best way to get to Hong Kong airport from China. Via the ferry. Stay a night in Shenzhen, then cycle on to the ferry. You get taken to a separate checkin part of the airport (security too) so the queues are non-existent. I rolled right up to the desk. I wrote it up here:
      http://robertbeal.com/1821/flying-china-bicycle

  43. JimP says:

    Hi,

    I did as you advised and sent my claim form to EasyJet. Low and behold, they agreed to pay! I really wasn’t expecting this as I was told very clearly in the airport that EasyJet doesn’t insure against such events. Well, they did, and paid the full price of the wheel. Here is their email:

    Thank you for your correspondence, from which I am very sorry to learn that your baggage was mishandled following your recent journey with easyJet. At the outset, may I offer my sincere apologies for the inconvenience you were caused by this incident.

    Despite our very best efforts to avoid this type of occurrence, where there is a mixture of manual and mechanical labour unfortunately such incidents can happen, although only to a small percentage of the baggage carried on our flights.

    I am pleased to confirm that we are willing to meet this claim in the sum of €55.90. If you would be kind enough to complete and sign the enclosed release and indemnity form and return it to this office, we will issue our cheque in full and final settlement of your claim. Please be advised that payment can take 3 to 4 weeks.

    Thank you for your co-operation and we look forward to hearing from you in due course. It is our aim to offer our passengers the best possible service in every aspect of their journey and may I again express my very sincere regret for the difficulties you experienced.

    Yours sincerely

  44. jotaeater says:

    Hi!

    Here is my (brand new) footage boarding our bicycles on a plane in a plastic CTC bag: http://jotaeater.blogspot.com/2011/10/taking-bicycle-on-plane-ctc-plastic-bag.html

    Flight: Trieste-Trapani. Trip: Cycling around Sicily. Thank you for instructions and recommendatons!!

  45. jim says:

    Beware Biarritz airport. The girl on e/jet check-in was virtually hysterical about refusing to allow our plastic ctc bagged bikes onboard. we were shouted at and treated very rudely in front of the whole queue. The supervisor swaggered across and shouted that we were not to be allowed on the flight until we had purchased boxes and repacked the bikes. this 40mins to departure. We eventually demanded to see the airport manager who decided, after viewing e/jets website at our insistance that the bikes could travel if they fitted the oversize baggage machine.

  46. Matt says:

    I would love to hear from anyone that has used this type of bag with Jetstar. I am planning to fly Bangkok-Singapore-Cairns and am deciding whether to use one of these, or get the bike boxed up with all the attendant hassles.

  47. Hi,

    Anyone recently used Air New Zealand with their bikes?

    I plan to be flying out of San Francisco end Sept. Now the site says: Oversized Items

    If you are travelling with items that exceed maximum dimensions for checked baggage, these are classified as oversized.Examples of oversized items are bicycles etc. Since these are larger items, carriage will be subject to availability of space on the aircraft. Please note there is a maximum weight restriction of 32kg (70 lbs) per item and length restrictions also apply.

    Some places I have read ANZ have charged passengers for been 23kg including bike!

    I am also confused as the flight will be via Auckland to Christchurch. Now, do they move the goal post for a domestic flight? :-/

    • Jane Pearce says:

      I regularly fly with a bike in a Groundeffect cordura bike bag on domestic ANZ flights. No extra cost if you can fit your panniers into the bike bag & weigh in at roughly 23kg (ie one checked in bag otherwise I think it’s an extra $10 per bag).

  48. Simon Dunford says:

    CTC bag discontinued !

    • friedel says:

      I’ve asked CTC on Twitter about that. Waiting for their reply. Sometimes it’s just out of stock on Wiggle.

      In any case, you could easily make your own with a thick sheet of plastic and some packing tape.

    • friedel says:

      CTC says not discontinued, just out of stock…

      • Simon Dunford says:

        Wiggle just sent this.
        “Thank you for your email. I have checked the site and I can confirm this will be listed again on the site within the next few days. We have over 400 going into stock by the end of next week.”

        Panic over.

        Also available here
        http://www.bikeadventures.co.uk/shop.html

  49. Andrew Gardiner says:

    Has anyone experience of taking their bike in a CTC clear bag with jet2.com? Their website states “bicycles must be wrapped in stiff cardboard”.

  50. I am sure that I, nor anyone else will ever convince the Dr Sheldon Coopers of this world that a plastic bag is perfectly all right.

    Being a pilot or a theoretical physicist or even a baggage handler will make little difference to the arguments. To the nay sayers I ask: “What are you going to do with the box?”. If you don’t plan to come back to claim it and you can’t carry it with you what good is the box?

    • friedel says:

      If you get a box for free, you can just throw it out when you’re done with it and get another at a bike shop for the return journey. That’s what we’ve done in the past – but we currently favour the plastic bag if given the choice.

  51. FredW says:

    I’m doing a tour this summer starting in London and ending in Vienna. I’ll need to get my bike back to London.

    It is a Bike Friday folding bike and I have a bag for it, but it basically is a large, black duffel bag, not obviously a bike bag. My plan was to use that and take the train back (Vienna-Frankfurt-Brussels-London) but it will probably require an overnight — which is pain — and the train is expensive. So I started thinking about flying (British Air) and reading this and the CTC site has me almost convinced to go with the plastic bag.

    Has anybody sent an un-folded, folding bike in just a plastic bag? I guess it shouldn’t really matter but I am a worry wort :)

  52. jac says:

    Hi. i am flying from London Heathrow to Sydney on a ba flight in nov 2012.
    if i use a ctc bag do u think i could just leave my empty panniers on my bike
    or do u think because they can see into the bag they wil want them taken off and checked in ? any help would be good thnaks.

    • I’ve worked at a regional airport. The bike in the bag (with panniers) is one piece of checked in luggage. As the bike will go through an ‘out-of-gauge’ machine, you should have no problems with leaving the empty panniers on. They’ll know what you have in them anyhow!

      BUT, check in staff change like the wind. So nothing is set in stone from one airport to another.

    • This is my first attempt at using a CTC bag.

      It seemed to take forever sorting the bike out, padding, removing, bagging up, taping…etc. Did think surely a cardboard box would be a dam sight quicker? But, I am saving what must be at least 2kg+ over a sturdy box?

      Front wheel removed and attached to rear frame with a layer of big bubble wrap between. Trianga 1 ltr bottle placed between axle of front forks, perfect fit. Bars turned parallel, saddle lowered. Decided after much deliberation to remove the rear derailleur. The idea of having a bent hanger on arrival gave me shivers. Also removed the chain so as to fit the derailleur into a plastic bottle (as shown by Andrew). Derailleur then taped in the spokes in the rear wheel. It is still attached to the cable, so one less thing to deal with at the other end. Pedals removed, crack arms secured to the frame.

      Also removed the front Tubus rack, as this WOULD have got bent. It’s taped to the bottom of the top tube (inside frame) with my Exped mat & chair rolled up in it too, again a perfect fit.

      Panniers to be bungeed together, then to be put in a garden bag. Some crazy idea of mine! (Will follow with explanation soon)

      Not sure if this might all be overkill. Believing it best to start on the good footing, then take it from there on my following flights.

      15th Oct ’12 – Gatwick > Dubai > Christchurch (NZ)

      Photo of CTC bag and bike in my Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/bicyclejourneys/status/254683109252030464/photo/1

      • friedel says:

        Nigel – why remove the front wheel at all? The beauty of the plastic bag for us is that you can slide the whole bike inside – no dismantling required!

      • sz says:

        A small tip for the front forks.
        Tent pole replair sleeves are available in 100mm and 130mm lengths. The shorter is a perfect fit for the front, the longer needs 2-3 additional washers to fit the rear. Just slide the repair sleeve over the axle and attach between the dropouts.

  53. Friedel,

    Had used a padded bicycle bag previously when taking MTB to Namibia. The frame was dented. Follwowed the CTC sites packing tips, so caution set in! Might just be overkill!

    Also needed to reduce the size of the bike as to get onto the local bus service. Says on their site that only folding bikes would be allowed. We did manage to get it on :-)

  54. Lasha says:

    I had a lot of success flying with my bike in plastic bags this summer. I flew Air Transat from Ottawa to London, and from Paris to Montreal. My friends flew between Toronto and Dublin. Everything went smoothly.

    Air Transat charges only $30 per direction and provides their own bags, so it seems that they are fairly happy to transport bicycles even if they aren’t boxed.

    I also flew with Norwegian Air Shuttle. Their price was similar, and they accepted bags or boxes, but didn’t provide either. No problems with bicycle damage.

    We also flew Ryanair and had to box our bicycles. I drew a bicycle on the outside and clearly marked “this way up” but it still came back upside down. Presumably this was the baggage team at either Biarritz or Skavsta airports, and we had no problems with the airline. After trying both methods, I felt safer with the bike in a bag, plus it was more convenient.

    Some suggestions on…

    Finding a bag:
    -If your airline doesn’t provide plastic bags, try to check with the airport itself. If another airline at the terminal provides bags, you can probably get a bag for free or a small fee even if you aren’t flying with them.
    -Plan ahead, and don’t assume that the airline or airport will be able to provide something suitable.
    -Arrive early. Even if your airline promises to provide packing materials, they might be locked in a closet somewhere else in the airport, and the clerk who happens to be working that day might not know where the key is kept.

    Packing:
    -Bring: a roll of tape, scissors or a knife, zip ties, tools (to turn handlebars, remove pedals, and pump to reinflate tires), ziploc bags, soft packing materials, and hard packing materials.
    -If you are buying a bike, think about what tool is needed to remove the pedals. Many bikes require a pedal wrench (big, heavy, and awkward). I happened to buy pedals that can be removed with an allen key and avoided huge inconvenience.
    -I wrapped soft clothing around the handlebars, the brakes, and the bar end shifters and then taped it. That protects in case the bike gets dragged on the ground and the bag rips. I also think it helps to convey the message “Be careful! This thing is fragile!”.
    -I always put something protective over the rear derailleur. Once I taped a big tupperware overtop, once I used a shoebox. Both times they came back banged up, so I think I saved my bike some stress or damage.
    -Anything I took off my bike (bell, trip computer, lights, pedals, etc) went straight into a ziploc bag. I taped the bagged parts directly to the rear rack so that everything arrives together. If your bag gets lost and you have a bike with no pedals, that’s no good. I also taped my multitool and my knife directly to the bike for the same reasons.
    -I have a leather seat that protrudes a lot from the bicycle, so I removed it, wrapped it up, and taped it to the bicycle too. It’s important to look at your bike and think about what parts stick out. They’re the ones that might get damaged if the bike falls or gets dragged.

    At the airport:
    -Figure out where the oversize baggage drop is and pack your bike nearby. Otherwise you might pack it next to the airline counter and have to drag it across a crowded airport.
    -Do what you can to protect your bike, but once it’s packed and sent off, try not to worry about something you have no control over.

    Safe travels, everyone!

  55. froze says:

    It’s weird what airports will deem a weapon. Someone mentioned they couldn’t bring a spanner because it’s metal, yet I saw a lady on a plane with 8″ darning needles, and she told me any airlines she’s been on, foreign or domestic, didn’t asked or cared!!

  56. Olaf says:

    Haven’t heart yes about this bag, but normaly I choose a similar type of packing with a “bicycle garage”.

    http://relaxdays.de/fahrradgarage-185x110cm-wasserdicht-silber-10010037.html

    But last time in treviso the distroied the brand new biciyle garage – for a better handling of the bike, I think.
    So, I not shure of using the “bicyle garage” again.

  57. froze says:

    What most people don’t realize is that especially in Europe, not sure about Cuba, people wait at the baggage belts and steal bicycle cases and somehow manage to get out of the terminal, this also has happened in America. This means you better rush to your baggage area to secure your bike before someone else does. Bicycle luggage/boxes/bags scream bicycle. These thefts are in some part due to outside thieves coming into the terminal but the scary part is some of the thieves are inside jobs done by the very airport workers including security guards that we’re suppose to trust. How frequent is this type of thing? Frequent enough to make the news! And it’s this sort of thing is on the rise. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/03/26/exclusive-the-stunning-jfk-airport-baggage-scandal-200-thefts-per-day/

    More and more bicycle touring agencies are suggesting that you ship a bike via mail service like FedEx, UPS, etc, and have a receiver set up to receive the bike and secure it till you get there, some bike shops will do this and so will some hotels. Make sure you tip the receiver. Also you can insure the bike through outside shippers whereas most (if any), airlines will not because it’s sports equipment. Of course you can always purchase a bicycle rider on your homeowners insurance and be covered that way too without a deductible to worry about, but it may take awhile to get your money so you can buy another bike wherever you’re at. Some travel insurance policies will cover you too but they all have a maximum per item limit they will pay out for a loss which is usually $500.

    This well known bicycle touring association has more about this: http://www.adventurecycling.org/features/shippingbikecases.cfm

  58. Simon says:

    Hi, I fly a couple of times with Alitalia and Lufthansa in Europe and over the years it became more and more hassle with the bike. 10 years ago they accepted the bike unpacked (only pedals removed) and it arrived undamaged. Last year I had a long hassle with Alitalia in Rome and had to pack it in plastic. Derailleur and other parts were heavily damaged!

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  60. froze says:

    I read with quite a bit of interest about the clear plastic bag idea, but still out on a limb about it. My biggest problem I have using a bag is that in some parts of the world there are people waiting at baggage pickup areas waiting to find something of value and steal it, then somehow they get past the security people. I’ve heard this happening with bikes in the fancy cases, and even tools and other items of value. If a thief can see it’s a bike I would think he would grab it fast. Am I wrong about this?

  61. As many know, I’m on the plastic bag list. The only time I had trouble was at Gatwick when two airport workers sent to pick up the bike insisted on opening the box to make sure the tire pressure had been reduced, the pedals removed and the handlebars turned.

    At the other end of my direct flight to Toronto no bike appeared. I started yelling at the airline and Gatwick as soon as I got home. I didn’t stop until several days later when my bike was returned in the middle of the night in a plastic bag with the pedals on, handlebars straight and air in the tires.

    What I didn’t tell you was the the moment those two fellows appeared to pick up my bike I knew they were going to steal it. I suppose the immediate reporting of the theft to Gatwick made my bike too hot to make it out of the terminal.

    My advice: Travel with a bike that looks as it’s not up to much in a plastic bag so everyone can see its not worth stealing.

  62. Tim says:

    We had to transport bikes by airline checked-in baggage. After much deliberation, research and debate, we formed the opinion that it doesn’t make much difference to the chance of a bike being damaged whether it is transported in a box, a plastic bag, or in nothing at all. Packing it in a cardboard box just encourages the baggage handlers to toss in the conveyor belt and pile 700kg on top if it.

    Finally we came up with a simple hybrid arrangement where the top of the bike was fully covered but the bottom fully exposed. Our intention was that this would address the main issues…

    More here: http://tinyurl.com/d8u3ewb

  63. Rob Lynes says:

    Thanks for all your advice on this page, I’ve just returned from a trip to Washington DC with Virgin Atlantic and used the CTC bag.

    I was impressed with the virgin atlantic service, especially as it was free to take the bikes with them, and would definitely do it again.

    Rob

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