How to Take a Brompton on a Plane as Carry-on Luggage

As mentioned in the page on checking a Brompton inside a suitcase, US airlines generally charge fees up to $150 each way to take your bike on a plane. Not so with a Brompton – it can either be gate-checked (left on the jetway with the strollers) or taken on board as carry-on luggage, depending on the size of the plane.

The Basics:

  • Remove the seat to fit through the x-ray scanner (easier with a telescoping seat post)
  • Bromptons will fit in the overhead compartment of most larger planes
  • For smaller planes, gate check your bike by leaving it with the strollers on the jetway

We’ve now carried the bikes on board many times, on multiple airlines, within the US and all over the world.  We fold up before approaching the gate agents and cover the bikes with the Brompton black saddlebag cover (these are also handy for trains), and usually keep the bikes covered until we’ve arrived at our destination.  The cover makes the bike look more like a regular size bag, and also ensures that none of our road dust gets on other people’s things.  Unless your bike is sparkly clean, putting it into some kind of bag is courteous to those with whom you are sharing a bin.  And, since we (Dmitry) often carry the bikes folded through the airport, Off-Yer-Bike handles have been a very worthwhile investment.

The closest we’ve come to having any trouble was when a security person (neither an airline employee nor TSA – just someone who makes sure you have a boarding pass before getting in the security line) challenged the size of the bikes at SFO.  We called over a Delta gate agent and told him that we take the bikes on all the time, and he ushered us through.  Confidence helps a lot here.

On larger planes (and every international flight we’ve taken), the Brompton fits perfectly into an overhead compartment.  Your success may vary, depending on the airport and the carrier (or if you get a picky flight attendant).  At this point, we just ensure when buying tickets that the plane has bins that will fit a standard roll-aboard suitcase and assume we are good to go.  A flight attendant on Thai Airways even recognized the Bromptons as we were loading them into the overhead – and gave us an extra-big Thai smile.

The first time Dmitry brought his bike on board was for a quick trip to visit family, NYC to Buffalo. He carried only the bike and his T-Bag, and rode the subway to JFK. When he was about to head into the security line, he slipped the bike inside a Dimpa bag and added a luggage strap to make it easier to carry.

The Brompton and T-Bag both went right onto the conveyor belt and the x-ray image of the bike looked very cool. A TSA supervisor came by and asked about the Brompton (presumably they don’t see a lot of bikes on the x-rays). When Dmitry told the supervisor that it was a bike, the supervisor asked if this had been cleared with the airline. Dmitry bluffed and said that he did this all the time – which seemed to be good enough for the TSA. On a side note, the Brompton fits through the x-ray conveyor perfectly with the seat removed (it might be a bit too big with the seat attached – but we’ve never tried). Seat removal is very quick and easy with the telescoping seat post, otherwise you just need a hex-key (though readjusting the seat pitch on arrival can be annoying).

Brompton gate-checked inside a Dimpa bag. These baggage handlers could see it was a bike and made sure it would go in last

Brompton gate-checked inside a Dimpa bag. These baggage handlers could see it was a bike and made sure it would go in last

Because the plane was smaller regional jet, Dmitry left his Brompton on the jet bridge along with the strollers, asking the luggage handler there to be careful and telling him there was a bike inside the bag. He was hoping that the luggage handlers might be more careful with it because they could see it was a bike through the clear plastic of the Dimpa bag.

A few other helpful blogs, including a chart comparing pros and cons of checking vs. carry-on.

The return trip had a bigger plane, so the Brompton could go in the overhead

The return trip had a bigger plane, so the Brompton could go in the overhead

3 Responses

  1. calista says:

    Thanks for posting this. What airlines have you flown with your bikes? Delta was a real pain in the ass but I managed to avoid the fee by telling them that my Bbag (black electrip tape covered the logo) was a drum bag.

    • Mila says:

      We have flown a number of airlines with the bikes (we’ll be adding a new one today!), but primarily Delta when flying domestically. We have only checked the bikes when they were packed into a standard suitcase, otherwise we carry-on or gate check. Delta has generally been fine about carrying the bikes on (we once had a over-zealous security-contractor try to turn us away saying that the bikes were too large to carry on, and the Delta agents came to our rescue). JetBlue has also worked for gate-checking. Flying internationally, our favorite has been Thai Air, where the flight attendant recognized that they were Bromptons (and smiled with approval).

      Check out @bromptonmafia – they’re big proponents of taking the bike as carry-on luggage (and Southwest Airlines seems to work well for them.)

  2. Megan Ramey says:

    Hey y’all, thanks for the shout out to our chart! So happy to have bike travel partners in crime!

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