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by Dave Rome
May 23, 2019
Photography by James Huang
Effective immediately, American Airlines has eliminated its US$150 oversize baggage fee for sporting and music equipment on all flights. Oversized items, such as a bagged or boxed bicycle, will now be charged as a regular checked-in bag.
This should come as great news to anyone who has waited nervously to check bags at the counter, hoping a smile will save you from a significant fee. In the US, leading airlines, such as United and Delta (and previously American Airlines) charge US$150 to transport bikes per one-way flight. It’s quite likely that if this policy change proves fruitful for American Airlines, others may follow suit, too.
American Airlines does still charge for checked-in baggage – typically US$30 for the first bag – and so that same charge will apply for a bike. Keep in mind that weight restrictions still apply, however, so if your bike tips the scales over 50lb /23kg, that’ll put your bag into the overweight category, and you’ll be up for the original US$150 fee. And while American Airlines’ updated oversize baggage policy also applies to other common sporting goods and music instruments, those flying with antlers or scuba tanks will still need to pony up.
This will feel like underwhelming news for those flying domestically in Australia, with the likes of Virgin Airlines Australia, and more recently Qantas, offering such a service without fuss. Smaller American carriers, such as Southwest and Alaska Airlines, also already have fairly bike-friendly policies in place as well.
Saving money is always a good thing, but you still need to beware of one little tidbit in the fine print that could potentially cost you much more upon your arrival.
“Please note that if your bicycle is not in a hard-sided case,” says the American Airlines policy, “it will be treated as a fragile item.”
Moreover, American Airlines will only consider liability for damages if your bike is in said hard case, and even then, there has to be visible damage to the outside of the case. It’s a disappointing policy for a variety of reasons, especially as we’re not huge fans of true hard-sided cases (and we explain why in our best bike travel cases feature).
Needless to say, there’s room for improvement here, but it’s nevertheless a positive step. Will this change in oversize baggage policy impact who you choose to travel with? Let us know in the comments.
Pictured is the Orucase Airport Ninja, a case that CyclingTips staffers Caley Fretz and James Huang swear by for the ability to avoid oversize baggage fees when travelling within the USA or abroad.