Delta Demystified: Yes, Bikes Travel as Checked Bags

Delta Airlines announced a change in its airline rules that brought it to parity with American Airlines: Checked bikes will travel simply as a checked bag, no extra fee. We reported Delta’s near-conformity with American’s new rules.

Were we premature? A thread sprung up on the Slowtwitch Reader Forum asking about this and, indeed, the language was confusing to some. While most readers are now reporting bikes-same-as-checked-bags, a few were charged $150 per trip and had to appeal to Delta after their travel for relief.

Baggage must be less than 62” (length + width + height) to be considered not oversized. Are bikes an exception to this? “Bicycles… are allowed as checked baggage on most flights and fees … apply.” Seems straightforward. “Bicycles weighing over 50 lbs. will be charged the applicable excess weight fee,” which is in keeping with American’s new rules.

However, the policy goes on to say that when dimensions, “exceed 115 linear inches (292 cm) or exceeds 100 lbs item not accepted.” The policy as written does not explicitly say that bicycles between 62 inches and 115 inches travel as regular checked baggage, with no oversized fee applied.

Delta Airlines has a department that handles questions from the media. I placed this question to them. "The 'Standard baggage allowance and fees… apply' argues that bicycles go as regular checked baggage," I wrote. "But the policies on the website are not clear about whether an item (bicycle in particular) between 62” and 115” are simply allowed on the plane (but subject to an oversize charge) or whether it travels as regular checked baggage. Are bicycles, under 50lb, hard shell case, charged as regular checked bags? Or are they subject to oversize fees?"

The Delta media representative wrote back with the following: “There are no specialty fees for bicycles. Bicycles are charged as a standard checked bag, and standard baggage fees (including overweight and oversized fees) can still apply.”

Nevertheless, ticket agents can be confused by language that isn’t 100 percent clear. Wrote one Slowtwitcher, “I flew at the end of July before I knew about this updated policy and it was a tale of two. Leaving Los Angeles flying to Michigan, was charged $150. Leaving Michigan for Los Angeles, was charged $0. So, I got home, found [the Forum thread referenced above] and called Delta to tell them about my $150 charge. They refunded my money and apologized. So, the policy does exist!!”

The tricky part isn’t the size, it’s the weight. Read today’s review of B&W’s Bike Box II. With a tri bike (especially) the case itself places the travel in peril of exceeding 50lb, when the case itself weighs more than 25lb and many cases do. Weight of the empty case was never that much of a consideration to me when making a bike case purchase. It is now.

Note there is a new "superthread" on our Reader Forum, as of today, Ministry of Travel, which will be a curated thread answering any questions you have about travel in the context of swim, bike and run (whatever "Travel" may grow to encompass).