Flying with BA, and Ground Effect bike bags

If you’re coming to India with us from the UK, there’s no doubt that British Airways offer the quickest and most direct service (T5 issues being sorted by the summer…). As our time in India is relatively short given how far we’re travelling, those extra saved hours on either end – and the fact that a direct plane reduces the chance of damaging trusty steeds – are a real bonus. What’s more, BA’s prices have been really competitive over the last few years.

But like most airlines, BA have been shuffling around their baggage policy recently. Since last year, bikes have travelled for free as an extra piece of sporting equipment, taking any pressure off baggage allowance quandaries. The only stipulation was how they’re packed (pedals off, handlebars turned etc…) and that they’re within a 23kg max weight – no problems there. This year, they’ve introduced a clause stating that while this is still the case, the total dimensions mustn’t exceed 158cm – that’s the height, plus the width, plus the length. Unless you have a folding bike or one with S&S couplings, this is pretty much impossible. Somewhat confusingly, BA also state that standard bike boxes and bags will still be accepted, even though these exceed these dimensions. Anyway, so while it looks like everything will be ok, it’s worth finding the smallest bike box or bike bag that you can, just to try and avoid any issues with surly check in staff.

With this in mind… Although nothing short of a big, heavy hardcase will guarantee the safe passage of your bike, we’ve had very good experiences from Ground Effect’s very diminutive Tardis. With the addition of some locally sourced bubble wrap, cardboard and pipe lagging, it’s really well designed to protect your frame, and packs down to A4 size for easy transportation in the jeeps – for those coming on the Manali-Leh tour. We’ve had several people use them in the last couple of years, and they’ve got a big thumbs up. So well worth looking into, and impressively priced at £60.

Lastly, it’s always worth checking your airline’s bike policy and printing it out to avoid any confusion at the check in counter. Ringing a day earlier to confirm the fact you’ll be bringing a bike can also help.

Photos: Big skies on the Morei Plains, Ladakh.


7 Responses to “Flying with BA, and Ground Effect bike bags”

  1. 1 Christian April 14, 2008 at 11:11 am

    I’m a “worrier” and try to fly with BA whenever possible because of their bike-friendly policy and their tendency to use direct flights so, as Cass mentions, your bike is ‘handled’ as little as possible. Have always had great service from BA so will continue to support them.

    The new size restriction do look a bit annoying, and the Ground Effect Tardis or similar is probably the way we will all have to go – I was very impressed when I saw Jack and Katie’s bikes packed in the Tardis bags at check-in at Heathrow last year – they really do pack down small.

    I imagine that, unless BA chooses to market its ‘sporting equipment’ policy to differentiate itself from other, cheaper, airlines, it will eventually fall by the wayside as the industry moves towards the Ryanair model of charging for every extra.

    This could be as good as it gets guys – enjoy it well you can!

  2. 2 Christian April 14, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Can’t believe I used “well” rather than “while” in the last line. I’ll get my coat…

  3. 3 OnAnInbred April 16, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    I’m a fan of the Tardis too – although I’d strongly recommend anyone using one to take off the chainrings when using one. There is a lot of dismantling unfortunately, but it makes a really good compact package. I also find that reinforcing the edges with cardboard or the plastic edge reinforcements you get in flatpack furniture adds extra protection. I also use pipe insulation to protect the frame from anything loose in the package.

    On my last trip, i deliberately stuffed as much of my kit into the Tardis to make as stiff a package as possible. I actually succeeded in ensuring that it was my one bag for the hold, and came to 23 kg exactly (my bike is about 13 kg). Apart from making travelling much easier (just the Tardis and a well stuffed backpack), I think the bike was much more secure.

    As for airline baggage rules…. *sigh*

  4. 4 konafan April 19, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Have used the Tardis several times now on both Easyjet and BA and found it handy for touring, as once the bike was unpacked I could squish up the empty bag and get it into my panniers. Like OnAnInbred I also managed to travel with a Tardis as my only hold bag, by cramming it with clothes, wash bag etc.

    The only issue I’ve had is with my wheels being slightly out-of-true on arrival – the bag itself doesn’t give much protection and the wheels are quite tightly compressed when it’s all zipped up. Anyone else had this (could just be me cramming too much in)?

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