Taking The Cycle via Airplane, Mostly India Related

I am sitting in my Indigo flight enroute to Kochi from hometown Mumbai. Boarding this flight was a total last minute madness mainly because I was transporting my cycle.

I could have planned it better, so jotting down notes here for next time. Ya, I still have appetite for a next time. My parents were probably traumatized by how close I cut it, but that is OK. Next time I will make it easier for them. 😀

In case you are wondering: I ended up dismantling my bike for the first time just an hour before I had to leave for my flight. Everything could have been smooth as I planned it out in my head but well it wasn’t. The pedal got jammed damn bad so much so that finally I cut a hole in the box and that pedal just poked out. No other way.

So first tip,

Unless you have done it before, suggest you ask a cycle shop to dismantle and pack the cycle for you. You can sit with them and help them with it so that next time you could do this on your own.

Secondly, do this a little in advance. You never know some hitch may come up and you may need to spend some time sorting it… Like my pedal thing… I will now take the cycle to a shop in Melbourne and consult them about it.

So now we have the very basics clear, here is more:

1) How do I carry my cycle in a flight?

It depends really where you are traveling to. Domestic flights are more conservative about things. For eg: Indigo insisted a cardboard carton. While Air Asia is OK with a standard cycle plastic bag. The plastic bad sounds awesome as I don’t have to dismantle my cycle. Indigo didn’t actually ask me to dismantle my bike, but the problem is that the box size I got was smaller and I had to dismantle my cycle to fit it in. And I am not sure that a cardbox of the size of a full cycle would be available and feasible to actually carry it around. For eg: all flights do a security check of the bike box through the machine – it is possible that if the box is too big it may not even fit in! Then aren’t we stranded?!

The smaller sized cardboard box – you can generally get for a small amount at any cycle shop. The one that I got – I had to remove both wheels and the handle bar for all of it to fit in.

Standard cycle plastic bag may be a bit hard to get in India.

This is what my luggage looked like. One bike and two panniers 🙂
At Kochi airport the Air Asia lady suggested I can plastic wrap the entire cycle box…

There is another option – expensive one – buy a hardcase cycle box. This would be the safest for the bike, but it is expensive and is something that you will have to carry around with you or find a place to keep. As it is not ‘use and throw’. Yea lot of wastage throwing the cardboard box loaded with thermocol.

Foldie bikes:

these are small bikes which can be folded. They are great for transport – not just flights, even local transport. The small size along with easily foldable feature lets you carry it around with ease. However, you have to think through with this type of bike because all cyclists would tend to have some preference with regards type of bike and maybe a foldie isn’t yours. Also, if going for long distance touring then you will still be carrying a good amount of luggage, even if the bike folds in, you will still have to manage all of that luggage.

2) for Indian domestic travel: Which flight to prefer for cycle transport?

I don’t have experience using different flights, but I researched with a lot of them before opting for Indigo.

From my research on forums, it seems that in places like Leh – cycles are fairly common. So the airport authorities of most airlines there work well with cyclists. So if you are going via an airport that has cycle traffic – most airlines should be OK. The problem usually arises with other airports & also how do you know a particular airport has more cycle traffic? So I started checking out cycle policies of all the various flights – Indigo, Jet, Air India, Air Vistara and so on. Indigo was the only one that has clear instructions about the cycle as baggage – read here But now the crux of the matter – the customer care executives for ALL airlines told me you can’t transport a cycle even as over sized luggage. And the conversation can be fairly frustrating for eg:

Yes, madam you can take a cycle as check in luggage as long as it fits baggage size requirements.

Duh, if it fit baggage requirements I obviously wouldn’t ask you!! It is obviously oversized – So can I take the cycle or not?

Wait let me check. Yes, you can take a cycle but you need to pay extra charges.

OK I can pay extra – but how do you want me to pack the cycle?

Just put it in a box. It needs to be in a box of “so n so” size.

Ohh so I will have to dismantle it?

No madam, no need to dismantle.

:-O The size is such that I have to dismantle the cycle completely before it can become a box of given size.

The best thing that happened was that I started pinging all the flights on Twitter. And thankfully Indigo as the current number 1 twitter customer service brand in India, responded very well. Responses were quick and I spoke to the executive, he assured me that the cycle is accepted and I just have to pack it in a cardboard box. I asked him for his assurance in writing and he agreed. He also asked me to send him my ticket PNR number once I booked so he can send out necessary instructions for it. Note: while booking your Indigo ticket, there is NO option to select sports baggage/cycle etc…. But you do need to select the relevant extra luggage charges as per additional cycle weight.

So this Twitter service was really useful… And makes it my preferred airline as of now.

This happened enroute to the airport. I was really just in nick of time.

3) What about InternatioNal flights?

For international flights to carry your cycle I am not the best person to suggest as I don’t have enough experience. The Air Asia staff at Kochi airport seemed PROs when it comes to cycles though. And they get cycles regularly as far as I understand, so that was a good experience. Overall though from whatever I have read, international flights are a lot more easier to work with when it comes to transporting bikes. A lot of them have very simple processes where you don’t even have to dismantle the bike. Just deflate the tyre, remove the seat and pedals and your done 🙂

So this is all about transporting the cycle for now 🙂

If any cyclists who have done this are reading, do share your experience in comments. I would like to know.