Author Topic: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.  (Read 6671 times)

Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« on: April 24, 2008, 11:49:19 pm »
I didn't really want to put this into my Malta trip RR as I feel it would sully it in a way.

This trip was the first time I had brought a bike on a plane. I deliberated beforehand as to the mode of bike transportation... the choice seemed to be between a padded bag or the CTC style clear polythene sack. There are various pros and cons for each. Padded bags are huge (my storage space is limited), and fairly costly for an item that I am unlikely to use often. The protection they offer is not that great, and the fact that it is large, awkward to handle, and not obviously containing something fragile might predispose it to rough treatment. The CTC bags are cheap, and take up no space. You can stash it somewhere on your tour (or even take it with you as you ride). The big argument in favour of these bags is that the handler can see that the bag contains a bike, and he or she will therefore treat it with appropriate care, humans being naturally inclined to treat bicycles with respect.

There is, I'm afraid, a little flaw in the latter argument.

On arrival back at Heathrow from Malta, I stood up to get my bag out as it had been put in a locker quite a way from where I had been seated. I was expecting the rear doors of the plane to be used and wanted to get my carry on bag prior to the rush for the door. The rear door wasn't used, so I was standing for quite some time. My gaze wandered out to the miserable rain-drenched tarmac. Oh, there's one of those little baggage trains. Already. And there's an empty "carriage". A flash of plastic whizzes by, horizontally, and crashes into the back of said container at great speed. Just as this was dawning on me that this object was in fact my bicycle, another large item gets slung sideways onto it. And another. And another. Hmmm. That'll be TT's, Valiant's, and Greg's bikes then. The way they were thrown was just, I don't know how to describe it, they were treated with utter contempt. I don't think I have felt so frustrated in ages as I was then, having to watch a bike I had kept in pretty much mint condition for 6 years treated that way, and being unable to move or do anything about it. There was a little space, maybe 18" or so, left above the bikes into which the handlers tried to jam more cases in while all 4 bikes were lying sideways on top of each other.

Inevitably there was damage: significant damage to my front fork in my case, which will require replacement. But more important than the financial end of it, for me, is the frustration at being unable to prevent some arsehole from damaging your property for the sake of the few extra seconds it would take to stack them vertically or to deal with them in some other way.

Instructive episode for me.

Valiant

  • aka Sam
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Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2008, 12:26:40 am »
That was indeed a sad moment that put a downer onto an otherwise great trip.
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Maladict

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2008, 12:31:18 am »
Terrible.  >:(

For another datapoint - my bike was 6 layers deep under luggage at Gatwick on the way to France, in one of those padded bike bags.  I don't know if it got chucked about, but no damage was done.  Though a less solid bike (tis a Galaxy) may have suffered.  Another bike, on the same tour, done in the polythene bag stylee was on top of all the other stuff which was on top of my bike.  ::-)

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2008, 12:58:50 am »
Heathrow baggage monkeys/savages have damaged my wheelchair twice in four flights.
I am unimpressed with the care they (don't) take.
Partner's Gatwick experience was terrible too: bikes not loaded onto flight, bikes then sent to the wrong place, then returned to Gatwick damaged.

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2008, 01:01:53 am »
Ta Maladict: yes, I intended this post to start off a series of (hopefully) useful experiences, rather than the moan it may superficially appear to be  ;) 

Let's face it I took the risk, and I had an offer of a loan of a padded bag from Greenbank. I erred in having too much faith. It was also easier for me to ride the bike to the station and go to the airport rather than lug a huge bag around, so there was an element of laziness too.

If I had used Greenbank's padded bag, would the bike have survived exactly the same journey unscathed? I'm certain it would.

I didn't mention that on the way to Malta my rear derailleur hanger must have been pushed in slightly. This has to be one of the most vulnerable points on a bike, and even with the most angelic baggage handlers it is hard to avoid knocking the derailleur when a plastic bag is used. This is a major consideration if setting off on a tour; if your hanger goes you are in difficulties on arrival. With a padded bag packed before departure you can remove and protect the derailleur and hanger. When you ride to the airport and bag your bike there you are unlikely to have the time to prepare the bike so well.


Porkins

  • Formerly Nick H. And a long time ago etc, Eurostar
Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2008, 07:07:57 am »
I've got off pretty lightly with bikes on planes - just a broken saddle rail. But it was carbon so maybe I was asking for it.

Nevertheless I've come to the conclusion that with cost pressures on airlines resulting in incredibly fast turnaround times, you have to accept that sometimes your precious bike will be recklessly flung about and crushed like Sergeant Pluck's. Sadly it's a case of when it happens, not if.

So my new bike has S&S couplings, and on every trip I will dismantle the bike and  build a tailor made box from cardboard and a few miles of tape.It will be internally supported with bits of wood, plastic pipe, clothes etc. so it can be jumped on.   Because of the couplings the box will not be 'oversize baggage'. More and more airlines are charging extra for  that.

The thing I haven't worked out yet is how to make the box accessible to security searches without it being wrecked.

FatBloke

  • I come from a land up over!
Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2008, 07:54:25 am »
Baggage (mis)handlers are the scum of the earth!  >:( I wouldn't take any of my bikes on a plane unless they were in a very solid bike box!
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mattc

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Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2008, 11:28:58 am »
If I had used Greenbank's padded bag, would the bike have survived exactly the same journey unscathed? I'm certain it would.
You can't know that for sure. Not even if you tested throwing the bike around in the padded bag, then crushing it under [N] suitcases!
Quote
I didn't mention that on the way to Malta my rear derailleur hanger must have been pushed in slightly. This has to be one of the most vulnerable points on a bike, and even with the most angelic baggage handlers it is hard to avoid knocking the derailleur when a plastic bag is used. This is a major consideration if setting off on a tour; if your hanger goes you are in difficulties on arrival. With a padded bag packed before departure you can remove and protect the derailleur and hanger. When you ride to the airport and bag your bike there you are unlikely to have the time to prepare the bike so well.
I've never DONE this, but lots of guides suggest detaching the derailleur before flying, and it sounds quite easy (it would take me 3 times as long to re-assemble, but that's usually when you have time on your hands.)

Anyway ...
what I think this all shows is that it's almost impossible to ride to/from the airport AND have the thing arrive undamaged.
Bloody shame (and another deterrent to me flying ...)
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2008, 11:33:10 am »
If I had used Greenbank's padded bag, would the bike have survived exactly the same journey unscathed? I'm certain it would.
You can't know that for sure. Not even if you tested throwing the bike around in the padded bag, then crushing it under [N] suitcases!

A bike bag doesn't provide any guarantees. Especially when you forget to take off the pedals.

If I ever take a bike on a plane I'm going for a hard shell case. There's a dhb one on wiggle for about 120 quid.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Maladict

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2008, 11:40:07 am »
The idea of putting the Madone into a bike bag on a plane fills me with dread.  I'd want a hard case for that.

Tourist Tony

  • Supermassive mobile flesh-toned black hole
Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2008, 11:41:26 am »
I work alongside baggage handlers. I will make no further comment.

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2008, 11:42:55 am »
I don't take my best bike on planes in case it gets damaged. It is likely to. Last two flights I took, out and back, my bike was damaged. Needed new chainset, new rear mech. rear wheel rebuilding, glad I didn't take my best bike. Save the planet don't use planes.

spen666

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2008, 11:43:33 am »
I work alongside baggage handlers. I will make no further comment.
You & work- not usually heard in the same sentence without the word "shy" appearing

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2008, 11:50:25 am »
If I had used Greenbank's padded bag, would the bike have survived exactly the same journey unscathed? I'm certain it would.
You can't know that for sure. Not even if you tested throwing the bike around in the padded bag, then crushing it under [N] suitcases!

I think a padded bag would have been enough to prevent damage from the rough handling that I witnessed through the window of the plane. I agree protection is limited. The Pro reinforced bike bag for £90 odd that someone has kindly reviewed recently looks half-decent though.

Hard case is the way to go to eliminate worries about damage; you'll still need to worry if it goes to the same destination as yourself though!

Regulator

  • That's Councillor Regulator to you...
Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2008, 12:27:38 pm »
As the person responsible for sorting out the bags on this trip, I was in two minds. 

Hard cases were not really an option, as they would have prevented us riding to the station/airport and meant taking additional bags on the plane.  We were left really with the option of padded or unpadded bags.

I can see the attraction of padded bags.  But I think they have a downside, in that those handling them can't see what is inside.  The clear plastic bags we used let the baggage handlers see what was inside and, you would hope, realise that they should be treated with care.

Unfortunately they weren't - but I think that has more to do with the attitude of the baggage handlers than how the bikes were packed.

I am thinking of running the trip next year.  I would still be tempted to use the clear bags (particularly as they are easier to store/carry than padded bags) but make greater use of 'Fragile' tape or printed bags.  If we have a large number of people, I might see if Air Malta are willing allow us to load the bikes into a baggage container which is itself loaded onto the plane. 
Quote from: clarion
I completely agree with Reg.

Green Party Councillor

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2008, 12:34:21 pm »
Greg, I thought you might post as above so I tried to emphasise that it was a personal decision as to how to pack them :) so I don't think you should consider yourself responsible in any way, seriously. 

I'd probably use plastic bags again if I 1) took the derailleur off and 2) had time and materials to pad all the tubing.

I agree it is a matter of preventing totally unecessary damage caused by baggage handlers who couldn't give a stuff - I omitted to mention that about 2 metres to one side there was the next empty baggage container in the "train" - 2 more steps and they could have had a fresh container for one or two bikes and certainly for the bags they were cramming in on top.

Regulator

  • That's Councillor Regulator to you...
Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2008, 12:43:34 pm »
I know you weren't having a go at me.  But if I do it next year, I will ask Air Malta if we can get some special handling arrangement in place.
Quote from: clarion
I completely agree with Reg.

Green Party Councillor

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2008, 12:45:36 pm »
Hard cases were not really an option, as they would have prevented us riding to the station/airport and meant taking additional bags on the plane.  We were left really with the option of padded or unpadded bags.

You wouldn't be able to ride to the airport with a padded bag. Most (well the good ones anyway) have semi-rigid floors in them that mean they don't fold which makes them slightly tricky to carry on a bike.

And you can use your clothes to fill out the bag and add some extra protection (ontop of cardboard/correx down the sides and pipe lagging). Just carry normal hand luggage with one change of clothes incase the checked in baggage doesn't arrive at the same time.

I can see the attraction of padded bags.  But I think they have a downside, in that those handling them can't see what is inside.  The clear plastic bags we used let the baggage handlers see what was inside and, you would hope, realise that they should be treated with care.

Unfortunately they weren't - but I think that has more to do with the attitude of the baggage handlers than how the bikes were packed.

That's pretty much convinced me never to use a clear bag.

What makes you think it will be any different next time, or are you just hoping that you'll get some baggage handlers who give a shit? Put a bit of fragile tape on it and they'll just hoy it an extra foot in the air.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2008, 12:48:43 pm »
Put a bit of fragile tape on it and they'll just hoy it an extra foot in the air.

Yup. They could see quite clearly that they were bikes.

bobajobrob

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2008, 12:54:14 pm »
Sorry to hear about the damage and the bad experience :(

I have flown 4 times with my bike in the clear plastic CTC bags, and the worst I have suffered is a slightly damaged computer bracket. I always remove the rear mech. My bike is an old and very sturdy tourer, though. It can handle a good beating.

I don't think padded bags offer any real advantage over the CTC bags. They offer very little protection from the kind of knocks that are likely to result in damage.

I think the best advice is if you can't use a hard case, take an old bike that you won't be too upset about when the inevitable happens.

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
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Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2008, 01:33:39 pm »
Is there no come-back with the airline for this sort of damage? You all witnessed the way the bikes were treated and it was quite obvious what the contents of the bags were.
Eating's a serious business. Don't bollocks around wagging your tail.

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2008, 01:55:15 pm »
Is there no come-back with the airline for this sort of damage? You all witnessed the way the bikes were treated and it was quite obvious what the contents of the bags were.

Worth trying but I'm guessing you'll get fobbed off with something along the lines of:

The customer is responsible for ensuring the luggage is packaged/protected appropriately.

From the Air Malta website:-

"
Q - Is there a specified time limit within which to register a claim for damage to baggage?

A - A baggage damage claim should be filed immediately. However, in exceptional circumstances, a claim for damaged baggage can be accepted within 7 days of arrival, as long as a correct baggage receipt is produced. The baggage receipt is given to you at check-in at your departure airport.
"

I go past their offices every day, they're in Putney on the corner of Upper Richmond Road and Charlwood Rd (with another office on Northfields in Wandsworth).
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2008, 02:01:00 pm »
I work alongside baggage handlers. I will make no further comment.
You & work- not usually heard in the same sentence without the word "shy" appearing

So says the shiny-bottom.   ;D ;D
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spen666

Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2008, 02:01:39 pm »
I work alongside baggage handlers. I will make no further comment.
You & work- not usually heard in the same sentence without the word "shy" appearing

So says the shiny-bottom.   ;D ;D

You said my bottom was between you and I  ;)

Tourist Tony

  • Supermassive mobile flesh-toned black hole
Re: Bringing your bike on the plane: woe.
« Reply #24 on: April 25, 2008, 02:06:06 pm »
Is there no come-back with the airline for this sort of damage? You all witnessed the way the bikes were treated and it was quite obvious what the contents of the bags were.
I hung on to finalise all this, and they have my e-mail address. I anticipate I will have to ring them to give it a prod along