Airlines are pretty inconsistent with the way their policies treat bicycles. WestJet. and Air Canada are the two major airlines that operate in Canada. A comparison of their policy shows discrimination against folding bicycles by Air Canada but fair treatment by WestJet.
I’m about to fly to head to a wedding in Toronto and adding a few extra days of vacation to see Montreal and New York. There are some great bicycle paths along the waterfront and within each city. I’m going to take my Brompton with me as checked luggage and travel light with my clothes and toiletries in carry-on luggage.
I ended up booking at WestJet. because their acceptance of folding bicycles as regular luggage counted towards my regular limit; otherwise Air Canada would have charged me $50 per flight segment with a bicycle – regardless of the fact that they meet standard luggage requirements (62 linear inches & under 50 lb).
Airlines stand to lose customers who wish to travel with a bicycle that fit within luggage requirements because they will always choose the carrier that treat their luggage with the same considerations as other luggage. There is no difference in baggage handling charge of $50 if the bicycle fits in 62 linear inches luggage and under 50 lb; therefore, there is a lot of customer angst at this extra surcharge.
I personally will continue to choose not to fly Air Canada until their policy changes to charge an oversize fee and/or heavy fee only to bicycles that do not fit in their 62 linear inches and under 50 lb requirement to reflect what I feel is fair treatment across customers. I disagree with what they feel is fair is to just charge all bicycles without considerations to luggage sizing similarities that folding bicycles have to regular luggage.
From TreeHugger Article: My War Against Air Canada’s Bike Rules Turns Into War of Attrition published on June 2, 2009, Lloyd Alter wrote:
Air Canada‘s baggage policy deals with sporting equipment, and as such, bicycles fall into that category. We do not differentiate between a folding bicycle and a tandem bicycle. They are all treated the same. In order to provide fair and consistent service to all passengers, we ask our agents to strictly adhere to the baggage policy.
Air Canada‘s current policy is the collection of handling fees for bicycles. Respectfully, we have to decline your request for a refund. While we understand that you are disappointed, we must remain fair and consistent with our handling of similar requests for all customers. (my [Lloyd Alter] emphasis)
Financial Post also wrote an article on Nov. 5, 2009 criticizing the Air Canada for treatment of folding bicycles when other air lines like JetBlue are allowing folding bicycles so long as they fit in to the standard luggage restrictions placed on other passengers packing other goods.
Airline Policies Comparison
Here is my comparison of Air Canada vs WestJet policies as of April 11, 2013. Note that WestJet is only applying charges if it exceeds its standard accepted size & weight dimensions set forth to all passenger luggage. Air Canada makes no note of that consideration but all equipment deemed to be a bicycle will be charged $50 on each flight segment.
Air Canada Baggage Sporting Equipment Policy regarding fees charged for bicycles:
Bicycles are subject to a handling charge of $50 CAD/USD (plus applicable taxes) for carriage on Air Canada and Air Canada rouge flights, as well as on Air Canada Express flights operated by Jazz, Sky Regional, Air Georgian and Exploits Valley Air).
WestJet Baggage Sporting Equipment Policy regarding fees charged for bicycles: