It’s any and all a travelers nightmare, dealing with jet lag, lay-overs, and strange foreign airports. However most avoid the worst: An oversized, cardboard bicycle box weighing close to 50 lbs., carrying your only method of transportation. If you call most airlines, and ask about their bicycle policy, you will be transferred to several different customer service reps before someone can finally give you a straight answer. It is then always a good idea to have the agent email you the policy so you can print it out and have it as a backup at the check-in desk. Before traveling to Israel I have had extremely good luck with checking Gabriella, where most if not all the time oversized/overweight fees were not access, and Gaby traveled safely with the rest of the luggage in the bowels of the airplane free of charge! Then came my experience at the Tel Aviv airport which, in retrospect turned out OK, but since then I have tried to avoid a similar experience.
It should not come as a surprise to most that I am a frequent flyer mile packrat. Always applying for new credit cards that offer tens of thousands of travel miles upon first purchase, then burying them deep in wallet to avoid the occasional spendthrift. My ticket to Sapporo was nothing out of the ordinary, a cheap, 30 hour, 4 lay over flight stopping in Mongolia, China, and Malaysia before making its way to Japan. On, Tuesday Oct 21st, I called the airline to inform them that I would be traveling with a bicycle (most airlines ask for a 24 hour notice). After give the agent my confirmation number, I was told that since I was flying on 4 separate airlines I was required to check and re-check my bicycle at each stop along the way, subsequently paying an oversize fee each time! “Can’t the airline check my bicycle all the way to Japan” I asked. After a brief hold the agent returned and informed me that each airline could only check the bicycle for its leg of the journey. This was a first. In all my travels this had never happened before, as usually once luggage is checked it arrives at your destination, this was not the case in Central Asia with bicycles. I quickly did a search of the 4 different airline’s sports equipment fees and determined that it would be cost me close to $500 to check Gabriella all the way to Sapporo! With all the help from sponsors, my bicycle doesn’t even cost that much, let alone could I afford it. The other big problem was that many of my lay-overs were less than 30 minutes, making it impossible claim and re-check the bicycle before making the flight.
I had no choice but to change my ticket, unfortunately to avoid flying on the 4 separate airlines I had to change my departure and arrival location. I am now headed back to Kazakhstan, and my destination is also no longer Sapporo, but rather Fukuoka in the south. As much of a hassle as it is, there are benefits. I can now travel to South Korea immediately upon arrival and hopefully avoid the extreme cold, before traveling back into southern Japan. Here we go. A new reservation, departure and arrival! Tomorrow I head back to Kazakhstan for a 250 km journey to the capital. My health has made a full recovery and I am already itching to hit the road! If all goes according to plan my next post will be from Korea!