Ticket to Ride — Bike Magazine Australia

Two years back, I was in the US when, half on a whim, I bought a new bike. I rode it through the high and beautiful mountains of Colorado, and then — with the excitement of it all — rocked up to the airport still buzzing. Until I went to check in. There, things soured a little. Although I’d carefully weighed up my shiny new ride and then mailed a few things home so everything stayed within checked baggage limits, it turned out I needn’t have bothered: United still slugged me $200USD (see below) just for carrying a bike.

Here’s the thing, though: on a different airline, I would have been charged nothing. 

In short, doing your research pays handsomely when it comes to flying with bikes. It may be free; it may add $500 or more to your return ticket. The US has been particularly hard hit when it comes to being gouged for bicycle baggage fees. In Australia though, a generally friendlier attitude prevails; pick the right airline and you’ll fly at no extra cost. 

Perhaps it’s surprising this is even possible in an age of shifting airline revenue models. Ancillary fees, particularly baggage, are increasingly the norm. According to the International Air Travel Association, ancillary revenues in 2006 were just 0.5% of total revenue; today, it’s over 5%. For airlines like Air Asia and Tiger, it hovers around 20%. To be fair, bikes are challenging for airline baggage handlers. Even if they don’t weigh a lot, they’re big, bulky and take up cargo space. So much so that during the Tour Down Under, Qantas — which flew over 1500 bikes into Adelaide for the 2013 event — needed to swap jets from 738s to larger 767s just to fit them all in.

Despite this, it’s not like destination cyclists or those travelling for competition have the numbers to form influential lobby groups striving to keep Australian baggage fees reasonable. Conversely, though, we’re not completely powerless. “Cycling tourism is a high-yield niche market providing $2.2 billion to the Australian economy,” says Bicycle SA’s CEO Christian Haag. That’s potentially a decent chunk of cash for airlines, and we can vote with our wallets by choosing those with bike-friendly policies. Read our guide to find out how.

Airline                                    Weight/Size Limit                          Cost                        The Fine Print


Qantas                                      23kg                                                Free                          Additional 23kg for $30

Virgin                                       23kg                                                 Free                          Additional 23kg for $30

Jetstar                                      40kg                                                $40*                          *East coast/Perth $45

Tiger                                         Bike bag/box                                   $60*                          *105min


Qantas                                      30kg*                                               Free                          *To everywhere but US

Virgin                                        2x23kg*                                           Free                          *To US. Check others

Jetstar                                       40kg                                               from $60*                  *Syd/NZ; L/Haul $160 

Japan Airlines                           2x23kg                                            Free*                         *Aust/Japan

Air New Zealand                       23kg                                                $55*                          *For first bag

Singapore Airlines                    20kg                                                Free                           Bikebag