This post shows how to put your Brompton bike into a large suitcase. My bike is a Brompton H6L model. My suitcase is a Tern Airporter Mini (TAM). The dimensions on a TAM are 11.4 x 22.4 x 28 in (29 x 57 x 71 cm) providing an overall size of 61.8 inches (11.4 inches + 22.4 inches +28 inches).
Why are the dimensions of you bike baggage so important?
The dimensions of your big bag are important because airlines will charge an oversize fee of $100 if the overall size of your checked bag is greater than 62 inches. If you like to travel with your bike by air and do not spend a lot of money in airlines fees, it means you really need to be careful when you check your bike. Luckily, my TAM at 61.8 inches is just under the checked bag limit for most domestic travel for most US airlines. Also, the maximum checked bag size of 62 inches generally applies on most other domestic, and international flights. However, I still suggest that you check with your airline to validate this.
What are the weight restrictions for checked baggage?
Maximum weight for the 5 largest US domestic airlines is 50 lbs. Luckily, the combined weight of my H6L inside the TAM is 43 lbs. This is 7 lbs under the maximum weight for a checked bag.
My Experiences Flying with my Tern Airporter Mini
I have been to California 4 times with a bike inside the TAM on both Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. I checked the bags at both DCA (Ronald Reagan National Airport) and LAX (Los Angeles International) and did not experience any problems at checkin. Four trips cross country is 8 flights. At a cost of one hundred dollars for an oversized checked bag, this was a potential cost of $800. It would just be too expensive to take a bike if it added two hundred dollars to the price of your trip. If not for you, at least it would be too much for me.
US Domestic Check Baggage Maximum Weight and Size With No Fees
The maximum weight for a checked bag on the top five US domestic airlines is 50 lbs. The maximum size of a checked bag for the five US domestic airlines is 62 inches. More information on the the top five US airlines for checked bag size and weight can be found from this link.
Putting my Brompton H6L into a my Tern Airporter Mini
Inserting my H6L into a TAM is shown in the photos below.
Prior to putting the H6L into the TAM, I have to remove the saddle, and the two hinge clamps. The picture below shows the items that need to be removed.
Other baggage suitable for transporting a Brompton Bike
Brompton distributed two bags suitable for taking in a checked bag on airline flights; the Brompton B Bag is a soft bag that can be used to take your Brompton with you as a checked bag, and the Brompton Folding Bike Case is a hard case for checking you bag when you fly.
Brompton Bike A Carry On Baggage
Most airlines will allow you to carry on your bag in a full size plane. The carry on overhead on a commuter flight would be just too small. I have seen pictures with a Brompton Bike in the overhead for both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. I have also heard that a number of Southwest pilots actually carry a Brompton bike with them on flights (I do not have first hand knowledge of this). While Southwest 737-700 and 737-800 model jets are the only jets they fly that will accommodate a Brompton bike in the overhead. Bromptons will not fit in the carry on overheads of the Southwest’s 737-300 or 737-500 model aircraft. So make sure you check the model 737 you will be flying to see if it will accommodate your bike in the overhead. Also, this would apply to any airline. So if your flight on any airline is on a Boeing 737-300, 737-400, o4 737-500, the overhead luggage area will not be able to accommodate your Brompton folding bike.
Brompton Shown Below After Checkin At American Airlines.
Here is my Tern Airporter Mini after checking in for a trip to Brazil. No problems were experienced at airport checkin.
Brompton Bike and the Samsonite F’Lite GT Spinner 31 (GT31)
The GT31 is just about the largest bag that can be checked on US airlines. I have read about a GT31 being able to accommodate 20in Tern Folding Bikes. So I thought it should be able to accommodate my H6L. I purchased a GT31, and brought it home to try with the H6. The GT31 can be purchased for as low as $149.95 on the Internet. So if it could accommodate a Brompton bike, it would be one of the lowest cost hard case travel Brompton solutions. Below are some pictures of the GT31 with Brompton H6l.
I unpacked the GT31, and got my Brompton H6L ready to put inside. I opened the GT31, but fold it not quite big enough my H6L No matter how I turned my H6L I could get get it into the GT31.
The handle bar stem was just too long to fit the H6L into the GT31. I was actually disappointed that I could not get my Brompton into the Samsonite F’Lite GT Spinner 31. This means that the GT31 cannot provid a low price hard case solution for transporting a Brompton bike as checked luggage on most airlines.
TSA and Your Checked Bag With A Folding Bike
Every time I have flown with a folding bike in the TAM it has been opened and inspected by the TSA. I can tell because when getting home there was a flyer fin the TAM rom the TSA. The TSA is supposed to put a flyer explaining inside any bag they inspect. So if you check a large bag with a folding bike, do not be surprised when you get home with one of their flyers in your bag. In my opinion, and just my own, I think that most checked bags with a folding bike will be opened and inspected by the TSA.