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Many people fly with their bikes these days. It’s a convenient solution and you can keep your bike with you when you travel. As we will talk you through below, it’s not without risk however. Our experience from working on big events like the Etape du Tour has shown us that bikes don’t always turn up at the overseas airport. Most bikes turn up at the airport later in the day but there are always cases where the bike does not make it in time for the event.
Please read on about what the rules are, how you can reduce some of the risk and some tips from us on what to look out for when you are flying with your bike.
On arrival, you will get off the plane and walk through passport control as usual into the baggage area. Most airports tend to have out-sized or special luggage belts so look out for those when you arrive into the luggage area. If your bike is still nowhere to be seen after all luggage for your flight has been delivered then you have to check with the airline’s handling agent what’s going on. It is important that you stay ‘air side’ rather than walking into the arrivals hall as you will not be allowed back in. There should be access to the office of a handling agent once you have gone through into the arrivals hall however. If you don’t manage to do a report at the airport at all then you may be able to do a report online as well. The quicker you report it, the better it is however.
Inside the arrivals hall there are offices for the handling agents. These are companies like Swissport, Menzies etc. You need to have a look at what agent is handling your airline’s flights and go to see them. At the Baggage Service Office your baggage claim will be registered and then you will receive a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) with a personal reference number. You need this number to check the status of your delayed baggage. Once your baggage has been found, you should be contacted to arrange delivery. You should have received a baggage claim tag for every bag that you checked in before departure. Make sure to save these tags until you have received all of your baggage.
If you have booked your own flights with an airline, either directly or through a comparison website then it’s up to you to deal with it all. You have to complete the PIR report before you leave the airport and you have to then deal with the handling agents to find out where your bike is and when it’s likely to turn up.
It is worth noting that the handling agent will choose the most cost effective way to deliver luggage. If you fly into Geneva and you’re staying in Alpe d’Huez 3 hours away then they may wait and group bags together to save costs. This may add to the delay.
As with ABTA and ATOL protection on our holidays, it’s not important until something goes wrong. You can’t put a price on peace of mind however.
It’s nice to have someone on the ground who is on your side and who can help you resolve any issues like not having a bike. You’re on holiday and you have better things to do with your time off. Even though most handling agents speak English, it’s handy to speak the local language at times. here below we show you why it pays to book with a Tour Operator and to get that local assistance when things go wrong.
You’d assume that airlines and airports know if there is an event going on and there’s going to be a lot of bikes on a plane. We’ve found that this is rarely the case. Some airlines like British Airways don’t know in advance how many people will turn up with bikes as it’s not part of their booking process. We’ve seen situations where they start loading the plane in for example London Gatwick and 20 to 30 bikes are left behind because the plane is too heavy. The idea is to then put them on another flight but it could knock on because there are too many bikes all day. This easily spills into the next day causing a lot of stress and upset.
If you have any issues then your tour operator should assist you with liaising with the handling agents. On bigger events where we have a continuous airport presence, we will also check in regularly and we can put your bike on a later transfer and deliver it to you. In the past we transported 20 bike boxes in a truck at two o’clock in the morning from Geneva Airport to Megeve. Our clients were delighted to find their bikes in the hotel bike store when they got up to have breakfast.
On a Sportive or Gran Fondo weekend, people tend to arrive either the day before or 2 days before the event. There is very little wiggle room for anything to go wrong. If a bike is delayed then you may not be able to take part in the event at all. As a contingency we keep a stock of spare rental bikes exactly for this situation. We’ve helped out many riders by renting out bikes to them. We always make sure that we have spare bikes available to help out when this happens.
We’re not all experienced with packing a bike into a bike box and re-building it again. Don’t worry as our mechanics are on hand to help you. If you’ve forgotten something then we’re on hand to assist you with anything that you need.
We had the pleasure to help out a delegation from Visit Yorkshire during the Etape du Tour in Annecy. 8 bikes did not arrive at Geneva Airport and our help with bike rental saved the day.
Just a quick follow up note to last week’s event and events! I have participated in a couple of events with Sports Tours International over the last two years (Milan San Remo this year and the Etape Act 2 last year). I have found your company to be extremely helpful, knowledgeable about the event and flexible in your approach. Based on my experiences my intention was to use your services again, however the support you and your colleagues gave the Welcome to Yorkshire Team last week has absolutely cemented that view. Yours and Roy’s help and flexibility at a moment’s notice was hugely appreciated and meant that the whole team could ride the event, which at 3pm in Geneva airport the day before did not look likely!
It sounds obvious but taking two or more flights increases the risk that the bike does not make it. If you book two separate flights rather than with the same carrier, you also run the risk that having to sort out reporting missing luggage after flight 1, delays you for your connecting flight.
A Checked Baggage Special Declaration of Value is a fee which increases the liability limit on a checked bag should that bag be lost or damaged. An airline’s liability for loss, delay or damage of checked-in baggage is limited to 1,288 Special Drawing Rights (approx. €1600) per person as per the Montreal Convention 1999. A Special Checked Baggage Declaration of Value fee can be paid for in advance of your trip. The payment of this fee raises the liability limit to 2,262 Special Drawing Rights (approx. €2600). Customers can purchase this at the Airport Ticket Desk, the Checked Baggage Special Declaration of Value Fee must be paid for at each airport of departure.
For the really valuable bikes, you may want to consider alternative ways of getting your bike to your event. You may want to consider driving over and take your bike in your car (don’t leave it in there overnight!). Some door to door overland bike shipping services will insure your bike up to £10,000. You can also take out special travel insurance to cover your pride and joy but these can be very pricey.
You have the legal right to claim compensation from the airline if your checked-in luggage is delayed, lost or damaged.
What you can get from the airline is usually limited to money for:
If you have to collect delayed luggage yourself, you may be able to get the airline to pay for transport costs.
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