How to Fly with a Bicycle for Cheap

Save money on your next cycling vacation by choosing bike-friendly airlines and free checked luggage options.
Alisha McDarris
By Alisha McDarris 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Whether you’re a passionate road biker or mountain biker, just signed up for a gravel bike race halfway across the country or simply love to explore places via two wheels, chances are you’ll want to fly with a bicycle at some point.

Fortunately, most airlines will accommodate bikes, though fees and restrictions differ by airline. So before you book, read up on how much various airlines charge to fly with bicycles, if there are any special requirements and if there are any ways to avoid those fees.

Bicycle policies by airline

Most airlines allow you to fly with a bicycle and will accept it as checked luggage, which means applicable fees will apply. But a bike is sometimes considered special baggage or sporting equipment, and is frequently heavy, so additional fees may be required.

Because your bike will be handled like other luggage, you may want to consider purchasing a durable bike-specific case to protect your set of wheels. In fact, most airlines recommend it if they don’t outright require it.

Do note that on many airlines, bikes must be nonmotorized.

Alaska Airlines

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Alaska treats bikes just like regular luggage and will even waive its typical oversize and overweight fees. This means if a free checked bag isn’t included in your airfare (it is if you have an Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card) or if you are checking a bike in addition to regular luggage, you’ll only have to pay the regular $30 fee for the first bag and $40 for the second.

American Airlines

If you don’t have elite status, aren’t flying internationally or don’t have an American Airlines credit card that offers free checked luggage, the usual checked baggage fees apply when flying with American. These fees include oversized and overweight fees, so measure your carrying case before you travel. This means a bike would cost $40 if it’s your first bag ($35 if prepaid online) and $45 if it’s your second on a domestic flight, plus any applicable oversize fees (starting at $30 for overweight and oversized, but increasing to as much as $450 depending on route and size/weight).

Delta Air Lines

Bikes can be checked much like regular luggage on most Delta flights, and the normal baggage fees and overweight/oversize fees apply. Checked bags are $30 for the first bag and $40 for the second. Overweight bags (over 50 pounds) start at $100 and oversized bags at $200. SkyMiles Medallion members and some airline credit card users can enjoy a free first checked bag.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian’s bicycle policy varies depending on where you’re flying. Simply hopping from one Hawaiian island to another will cost $25. If you’re flying to or from anywhere else in North America, it’s $100. And if you’re traveling internationally, it’s $150. Should your bike be heavier than 50 pounds, you’ll be subject to overweight fees that start at $60.

JetBlue Airways

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Bikes can fly on JetBlue, but it will cost you. In addition to a checked baggage fee (which costs $35 minimum for the first bag), you’ll have to shell out $100 extra per direction of travel for sporting equipment like bikes. On the upside, there’s no overweight or oversize fees tacked on, and Mint passengers, JetBlue Plus Card holders and Mosaic members get up to two free checked bags.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest is one of the only domestic airlines left that offers not one, but two free checked bags to every passenger. And as long as bikes fall within regular checked baggage dimensions (62 inches and under 50 pounds), they can be checked for free with all your other luggage. If a bike is oversized or overweight (meaning it weighs 51 to 100 pounds or is 62 to 80 inches in total dimensions), expect to pay an additional $75.

United Airlines

You can fly with a bike on United, but normal checked baggage fees will apply. That means you may have to pay a minimum of $30 for your first bag and $40 for your second, plus any applicable overweight fees. That said, oversize fees are waived as long as you properly pack your bike according to United’s instructions. If you’re a MileagePlus Premier member, you can check at least one bag for free (depending on your status level), and some United MileagePlus credit cardholders can enjoy free checked bags, too.

Ways to reduce the cost of flying with a bicycle

Save a few bucks when flying with your set of wheels, by using your airline status to your advantage if you have it. You can also sign up for an airline-branded credit card, which often offers benefits like free checked luggage (though oversize and special handling fees may be extra).

Often, one card will offer free luggage benefits to multiple people on the same itinerary, which could save one family more than a few dollars.

Alternatively, there’s always the option to leave your bike at home and rent one when you arrive at your destination, though those costs can be just as high. It’s at least worth doing some research before you travel.

The bottom line

Flying with bicycles can be expensive depending on which airline you are traveling with, how heavy your bike is, and even where you’re headed.

Fortunately, now that you know which airlines are more bike-friendly and how to enjoy free checked luggage (including bikes), you can save a few dollars on your next active vacation.

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