I flew in July 2012 to Darwin in the Northern Territory as part of what was at the time going to be my Dreaming Tour, a bicycle ride from Darwin to Perth. As it turned out I only made it to Adelaide River, having to then return to Darwin and eventually Perth. So I had experience of flying Qantas with my Surly Long Haul Trucker and Extrawheel Voyager to Darwin and again back to Perth. This post shares my thoughts and experiences on the flying side of the Dreaming Tour.
Perth to Darwin – Qantas, Surly Long Haul Trucker and a Extrawheel Voyager
I flew with with Qantas from Perth to Darwin as at the time of making the flight booking they had introduced a “by piece” baggage policy which meant that I can take one piece of baggage up to 23 kg in weight and have the option to purchase two additional pieces of baggage with a weight limit of 23 kg per piece at $20.00 per piece. So potentially I have a 69 kg of baggage allowance for $40.00.
I went with one additional piece of baggage at $20.00 which would give me 46 kg of baggage allowance in total. Qantas however does limit each piece to 23 kg otherwise a heavy charge of $20.00 is applied if the weight of anyone item exceeds 23 kg to a strictly enforced maximum of 32 kg.
As I was planning to ride back to Perth, I didn’t want to take a suitcase or similar and of course my panniers are more than one piece so having them loose was not ideal either. I ended up going with a second smaller bike box as my second piece of luggage. I split my gear (trailer, panniers etc) between the two boxes which meant one box came in at 23 kg and the other at 24 kg. No heavy charge was applied and so I only had to pay $20 for excess baggage. Handling the two boxes was easier given the reduced weights as well.
The flight to Darwin was a not a direct one, instead a stop-over in Alice Springs occurred. In the past this has simply meant an hours stop-over before getting back on the same plane. Not this time. The plane from Perth went off to Cairns and we boarded a second Boeing 717 200 for the Alice Springs to Darwin leg. This plane change did worry me a bit; more handling of the boxes, more opportunity for the boxes to get lost.
Packing up the Surly Long Haul Trucker to fit into a Qantas Bike Box
My Surly Long Haul Trucker has mudguards and a front and rear rack. All up an overall length which pushes the limits of the Qantas bike; in fact so much that it will not fit without a little bit of extra dismantling. The front rack had to come off in addition to the normal requirements of wheels and pedals off and the handlebars twisted around and the seat post removed.
Once all that was done the Surly Long Haul Trucker fitted nicely with a couple of empty panniers put down the side of the box to help protect the wheels. According to my dubious bathroom scales the box came in at 22 kg, one kg short of the weight at the airport.
Extrawheel Voyager and flying with Qantas
The second box, which I cut down a bit so I could squeeze it in the car (Anne’s bag and two passengers had to share the interior space as well with the Surly box going on the roof rack) took the Extrawheel Voyager, two panniers full of clothes and gear, helmet, handlebar bag, sleeping bag and tent. It also came in at around 22 kg at home but which oddly weighed in at 24 kg at the airport.
Ortlieb Sports-Packer Plus pannier as hand luggage
I am used one of the Sports-Packer Plus panniers as my hand luggage which turned out a good decision. The carrying strap worked a treat.
Surviving a Qantas flight with a bicycle
As it turned out our flight to Darwin did not include just a stop-over at Alice Springs but a plane change as well. Plane changes worry me as there is was more chance for bikes and baggage to go missing, more handling, more chance of damage.
As it turned out the we all got to Darwin safely so nothing to worry about. The cut-down box I used to pack the Extrawheel Voyager did suffer a little damage on the end I cut but nothing inside was damaged.
Reassembly of the Surly Long Haul Trucker and Extrawheel Voyager in Darwin
Anne’s sister was picking us up at the airport in her Toyota 4WD which I assumed would take the boxes no problems but it turned out that Qantas bike was just a touch too big to fit in back of the 4WD. This meant I had to take the bike out of the box. Disposal of the box caused a little angst at the airport. Empty boxes are a security threat it seems. Anyway under the watchful eye of a staff member I crushed the box down and left it a rubbish bin. That seemed to address their concerns. I guess if you are willing to jump up and down on box it probably does not have a bomb in it
Once at the motel I got the bike and trailer assembled without any issues.
Flying back home to Perth
With everything going pear-shapped at Adelaide River I eventually had to fly home to Perth to allow myself to recover. As I had disposed of the boxes I flew up with, I obtained a replacement bike box from a local bike shop. I thought I was pushing my luck so went for a single box, hoping to get the Surly Long Haul Trucker and the trailer into it.
As it turned out I was able to squeeze the bike and trailer in and the panniers and most of my gear. As Anne was with me, put the remainder of the gear (e.g., my bulky quit) in her suitcase.
However when I got to the airport it turned out the box was a touch over 32 kg which meant that the computerised scales/conveyor system would react and not allow the box to go into the bowels of the airport. So at the airport I had to cut open the box and remove a pannier and some gear to get the weight down. At least the Qantas staff where helpful lending me a knife and tape.
Once done the box went through okay and I carried the pannier as hand luggage. As this was overweight I expected a $20.00 charge but wasn’t charged so a nice bonus.
The bike and trailer got back to Perth okay.
As it turns out I could have flown to Perth with one box and a maybe used a pannier or two as additional baggage for $20.00 and one a pannier as hand luggage. Either way was okay.
One thing to do but is check with your airline as to their weight limits and requirements for flying with your bicycle. Airline requirements do vary. For example under Virgin Australia’s policy my single box ex Darwin would have incurred a $40.00 overweight fee, where as flying with two boxes ex Perth would have cost no more than $15.00
Resources and other websites related to flying with your bicycle
- Scicon AeroComfort Plus Bike Bag – Another option for taking your bike on a plane. It will not take the trailer and bike together but.
- Flying with a bike in a plastic CTC bag – Note some airlines such as Qantas state that bikes must be placed in a bike box, whereas Virgin Australia allow the use of bike boxes or soft bags.
Your Turn To Talk
I hope you liked this post! Please do stop by the comment section below and share your thoughts and experiences with flying with your bike with the rest of us. I am always interested in feedback on my posts, how I might improve them and what others experiences so please do share your thoughts by leaving a comment below