The United Airlines ticket counters at Miami International Airport. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

United Airlines abandons fees for flying with your bicycle

The last of the three biggest US airlines finally follows the lead of American and Delta.

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If you’re a cyclist who’s been champing at the bit to fly somewhere with your bike and you haven’t been looking forward to paying those exorbitant fees some airlines still demand for the privilege of doing so, we’ve got a bit of good news to share. US-based carrier United Airlines — who as recently as this September charged an additional US$200 for your bike each way — has quietly abandoned that fee entirely, finally following the lead of competitors Delta Airlines and American Airlines.

Under the “Bicycles” tab of the company’s web page detailing fees for checking sports equipment is this lovely nugget:

“Oversized bag fees do not apply to checked bicycles. Standard checked baggage fees as well as overweight service charges still apply.”

While that statement explicitly points out that oversized bag fees don’t apply to bikes — a critical distinction since conventional bikes almost never fall within the non-oversized range — it’s important to note that the airline will still ding you if your packed case is over standard weight. For United, that means a maximum of 23 kg (50 lb) if you’re flying in economy class, or 32 kg (70 lb) if you’re flying in business or first class. You’ll also still pay if you’re over your standard baggage allotment.

Interestingly, United doesn’t attach typically draconian caveats to this policy revision, either, even pointing out that boxes made of “durable cardboard” are permitted provided there’s “plastic foam or similar protective material inside.” What’s even more noteworthy is that United doesn’t seem to be automatically providing itself a preemptive pass in the event your bike is damaged in transit, aside from stating that the company isn’t liable for “checked bicycles that are not packed as described” (though that’s not to say there isn’t something hidden in the fine print). E-bikes are strictly prohibited, however, regardless of size or weight (likely due to fire hazards).

Fingers crossed, this is the end of a long period of airlines singling out cyclists for a cash grab now that the three biggest US carriers are all on the same page. The world still seems to be a ways off from all of us being able to travel completely freely again, but at least we can look forward to potentially paying a little bit less when that day finally comes. 

It’s about time.

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