Ninja Tutelage Lesson 1 - What's in the Bag June 18 2014
The thing you need to learn about becoming an Airport Ninja is to never tell anyone you have a bike inside your case! You might think that we are condoning lying, but that's the case, our mothers wouldn't stand for it!
A lot of people think bike fees come from cases being oversized. You're not incorrect but that's only part of the picture. There are lots of special items that are over 62" that airlines allow to fly without extra charge, golf clubs and skis are easy examples. Both these things pack larger than 62" inches, but few airlines charge additional baggage fees to fly with them. The reason for this is because surf boards and golf clubs usually don't cost as much as bikes and they're usually quite a bit more durable toward rough handling.
I think airlines charge so much for bikes because they're assuming a lot of liability by handling your bike, and they justify the risk of potentially having to replace your bike should they break it by charging you $200 for each time you check it. This is a topic for a later blog but airlines are in fact responsible for replacing broken luggage, even if your an excellent Airport Ninja who never pays bike fees.
Now back to the topic of not lying. When I'm asked "what's in the bag", I usually just kind brush the question off by saying something like, "Oh it's just some cloths and some stuff for work". As if I am preoccupied thinking about other things and or like their question is isn't worth my time to itemize the contents of my luggage. The questions usually don't stop here but it helps set the tone that you are not use to hearing that question.
If the checkin representative is persistent and they keep asking you questions, here are a few answers from other Airport Ninjas that they use to get through without paying bike fees.
"it's rehab equipment" - My bike is definitely psychological rehabilitation
"It's a boogie board" - that's probably a lie, unless you plan on hitting the beach on your trip
"It's a trade show display" - my Argon 18 is so nice it's on display everywhere I go
"It's bike parts" - a risky move but it works most of the time as long if you don't say it's a complete bike.
These are just a few examples of how to field questions at airport checkin counters. We are not suggesting that you lie when you check your bike, but we know that some airlines will charge you a bike fee if they know your packing a bike. Luckily The Airport Ninja bike case is so small that often the airline just never ask, and there are some airlines like United that won't charge you fees for a bike if the case is 62" linear inches.
We've also found that if you use curbside checkin and start your conversation by handing the airline representative a solid tip, you often get few questions about the contents of your luggage.
Ultimately, there is no wrong way to Airport Ninja. Some ways will save more money than others but at the end of the day the buying an Orucase will pay for itself in just one flight of avoiding bike fees.