ON AEROFLOT, the bicycle rule is simple: not only are you allowed to take a bike as part of your free luggage allowance, but the cabin crew will even wheel it through the Ilyushin and park it in the guard's van section at the back. Most other airlines simply carry bikes free, provided the tyres have been deflated (to prevent them exploding in the low-pressure hold), the pedals removed (to reduce damage to other luggage), and the handlebars turned to align with the frame.
Britannia Airways goes one better even than Aeroflot. As long as you tell the airline in advance that you intend to take a bike on one of its charters, and cover up all those nasty oily bits, it adopts a 'two wings good, two wheels better' policy and will carry the machine for free in addition to your 20kg (45lb) luggage allowance. Since its network extends as far as Australia, this is generosity indeed.
Other charter airlines, however, see flying cyclists as a nuisance. Excalibur Airways charges pounds 15 to take a bicycle, even if it is within the passenger's baggage weight allowance. A spokesman (or anti-spokes man) for Excalibur justified the charge by saying 'Bicycles require extra handling, and get damaged' - for which the airline is held responsible. The logical conclusion of this argument is that those of us who take only hand luggage, and thus save the airline trouble, should be entitled to a refund.
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