What’s in a box? James and Pierre, that’s what!

What's in a box?

What’s in a box? James and Pierre are in a box, that’s what!

We’ve quickly found that becoming an expert on boxes is all part of planning an overseas cycling adventure.

While we may be daydreaming about pedalling along the USA’s Pacific Coast Highway, a more pressing need is to find out how we’re going to package our bikes for the flight from London, England, to Vancouver, Canada, so they won’t get damaged (fingers crossed!) and to ensure the airline will accept them.

Bicycle policy and cost were the two major considerations in deciding which airline to fly with. A bit of online research and a fair few phones calls revealed the bicycle carrying policy of the major airlines varies greatly, both in price and rules.

We narrowed our search down to British Airways (BA), Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic. Despite having the best bike policy (no charge for bikes and no reduction in baggage allowance), we crossed Virgin off the list simply because it flies out of Los Angeles (LAX) and not San Diego, our preferred return airport.

Air Canada charges $50 per flight to carry a bike, whereas British Airways lets them go free if they weigh less than 23kg. This, combined with the fact the cheapest flight on offer was with British Airways, swayed our decision to fly with BA.

Unfortunately, the airline’s description of it’s bicycle carrying policy is a little vague online and staff at it’s customer service call centre couldn’t shed much light on the matter either. The guidance states ‘we will accept non-motorised bicycles of all dimensions provided they are packed in a recognised bicycle bag’. A little packaging advice followed, but not much more.

We don’t want to carry bike bags with us for two months so we faced buying them in London to then simply throw them away in Vancouver, before buying new ones for the return flight two months and 2,000 miles later. We wanted to use cardboard bike boxes that could be sourced easily in London and San Diego, but were concerned they may not be allowed on the flight.

We sought the guidance on bicycles that airport check-in staff are issued with but to no avail. That is until the good people at the Flight Centre stepped in with another piece of fantastic customer service through the email below.

James and Pierre

‘I have spoken to Ramona at BA Rapport which is a support system that we use for our bookings. She has confirmed the following: The bicycle carriage is all confirmed. The packaging can be a bag or a box – the original packaging that the bicycles were delivered and packaged in is just fine. They do not insist on a specific type of bag or box – but dimensions as displayed on the website must be adhered to’.

And here’s the dimensions: 190cm x 75cm x 65cm (75in x 29.5in x 25.5in).

Who would have thought so much thinking in and outside the box would have been involved in a long distance cycle journey!

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2 responses to “What’s in a box? James and Pierre, that’s what!

  1. The business of bike boxes is such a bore. Get a decent carry case and you find you have to leave it somewhere and pick it up again, or, as you say, abandon it. The system that has worked best for me was, surprisingly, on an Australian train. You took your bike to the luggage office, boxed it there, and at the other end, unpacked it and left the box with the railway guys.

    • I agree, bike boxing issues aren’t the most exciting to resolve. I’ve much preferred pouring over our maps imagining the people and places we’ll encounter along the route. The Australian train system sounds perfect. If only British Airways would take notice!

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