Thursday, June 7, 2018

Scanlandia: Flying with your bicycle


I’ve had experience traveling with my bicycle. The hard part is not packing the bike (taking off pedals, turning the handlebars, taking care to wrap forks and derailleur) but cutting the red tape surrounding extra fees.

In 2015 I paid $70 to fly with my bike to Jacksonville, FL using Southwest who have generous baggage policy. The last two times I’ve used Air Canada, who though involving passing through either Montreal and Toronto for connecting flights has been very good in regards to my bike showing up at the same time as me and in good condition. I’ve checked the bike as my one piece of check-in luggage and paid $50 for special handling.

Click here for a larger version of the picture
This time it is a bit more convoluted. I booked the ticket through a third party (what most people do) who conglomerates tickets getting customers the cheapest rate. It seemed at first like I would be using a single carrier but with all the mergers and airline alliances it was . . . Delta going out and KLM upon return. They are part of the same “group” but unfortunately have separate baggage guidelines and fees. Delta, outbound, is more generous with weight, the bike box can be up to 70 pounds. They charge $150 (ouch) for the bike handling. KLM, the Dutch airlines which should understand cycling enthusiasts and someone flying with a bicycle, are much more of sticklers about bike box dimensions and weight, allowing only 50.5 pounds. AND, you have to phone them 48 hours ahead of flying to tell them EXACTLY how much the box weighs and dimensions. The extra fee is $125.

As you can see this adds up.

Now for the part I’m appealing. I’ve already emailed a complaint to both airlines. I checked all this out before pressing buy. I always do. I do not buy a ticket and then wonder what bike policy is. So none of this came as a surprise. Keeping it all straight is hard, and it is annoying all the extra fees, but not a surprise. What I did learn after phoning Delta to inform them I would be flying out next week with a bike is that there is NO checked luggage. “Your ticket is basic.” I told them this was news to me. No where on my ticket were the words basic or economy. I would not know this except for them telling me at that moment. So they plan to DOUBLE CHARGE me. I need to pay $60 for a check-in item plus $150. I am, of course, appealing this. It seems in the extreme to penalize a flyer who is already paying the excessive handling fee of $150 another fee on top of that. Basically what I’m saying is that as a customer I should have been made aware at the time of purchase that my ticket was basic/economy. I see disclaimers galore especially the words baggage fees extra, see guidelines. That’s where I read that an overseas flight in coach was one personal, one carry-on, and one checked piece.

My contention with KLM was that I booked a connecting flight from Stavanger, Norway using KLM to Amsterdam separately but at the time asked the agent if because the two flights were less than 12 hours apart if my bike could be “checked through”, therefore not necessitating that I take it for the few hours between. In deed the KLM website stated that flights no more than 24 hours apart, luggage can be checked through. Now they are saying no. For sure I will not pay twice for the bike.

I’m feeling anxious, which is never a good thing, about what I’ll encounter at the counter. Sticker shock. I will report how these situations are resolved.

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