Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How to fly your bike for free (and go to hell)

Ok, so when I first started racing, taking a bike on a plane would cost about 40 dollars. I can see that being fair, especially with the size of my bike bag. But lately, the cost has been going up by over 25 dollars per year. On Delta now, taking a bike on board will set you back a cool 150 dollars. . .each way! In most cases, that is more than the actual ticket.

The stupid thing is, my bike bag is usually my only piece of checked baggage, and the size of just my bike bag is a LOT smaller than if I were to bring two suitcases full of stuff on board (which would only be an extra 25 dollars).

So, I devised a plan to get your bike on the plane for free. The first thing you'll need is one of these bags.
There is no place on this bag that says it's a bicycle, which is good because if there was a picture of a bicycle on it you would notice the herds of airline counter help tripping over each other in an attempt to add surcharges. You can buy this bag for about 150 dollars, and so if this trick works it will pay for itself in one trip.

Next, go to an embroidery shop. You will need to make a cloth patch that can be embroidered onto the bag. This should set you back 20-30 dollars or so. Have them embroider this logo onto the bag.
Can you see where the going to hell part of this in coming into play?

So, you walk up to the counter. You might be greeted by the usual "Is that a bicycle, is it a bike? Hey, can we charge extra for that? I got a bike! Hey Frank, get your rubber gloves and vasoline for this guy. He's got a bike!" But you just tell them "This is a wheelchair. I work for a non-profit organization and we provide hi-tech wheelchairs to Special Olympic athletes across the country. I am bringing this wheelchair to an event in Philly this weekend."

Now, here's what happens. Airline counter help is much like the Grinch at Christmas. It may never show, but they all have a heart somewhere in their bodies. If you have to carry a picture in your wallet showing the joy of a child winning the Special Olympics on your wheelchair, go for it. But you have to somehow pry through years of anger issues to reach these people who are slowly being replaced by vending machines. Also, bribing them with Xanax might help.

One other trick that might work is to email somebody at the corporation and explain to them that your bike is your only checked bag and it's smaller than when people check two bags. And since it takes up less room and is lighter than two bags, can you please only charge me the fee for one extra bag?

And of course, the corporation will email you back with a giant "eff you", and they might even send you a picture of them banging hookers in their swimming pools filled with Evian water. But then you take that email, edit their response to say that they appreciate you being a longtime customer and of course they would be happy to accomodate your needs in order to bring you fair service. Then you print that revised email out and show it to the counter help.