Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Playing the game

Taking a bicycle and all your kit on an aeroplane is, at best, not the simplest of evolutions, the risk of damage ever present. And potentially quite expensive. But imagine two scenarios. At one airport that’ll be two hundred dollars for excess baggage, take it or leave it, and pot luck as to how much your bike gets thrown around by the ground handlers. And lots of pointless carriage requirements, such as having to deflate your tyres. Or remove the pedals.

At another airport, Emma is carried out to the aircraft, intact, placed in the hold, other luggage carefully packed around her. Ground crew so proud of their efforts to protect her, they insist on showing you their efforts before you board the aircraft. Even if it’s an ageing Russian built jet that looks like it belongs in a museum. And the excess baggage – most of the panniers and the bike itself – well, always scope for negotiation. Cash helps.

The first scenario could be many a First World airport. But the second? Baku’s international airport. So, it would seem, Azerbaijan is, quite unexpectedly, actually a pretty good place to fly out of with a bike. Of course, I’d been in the city for a while and had learnt something of how things work. Knew how to play the game. Like a firm and generous handshake. Mind you, still had to put the entire bicycle through the X-ray scanners. Three times. No way around that piece of fun.

[Author’s note: If you are planning to follow in my footsteps and fly with a bike from Baku to Kazakhstan, I’d be delighted to share more details – hints and tips – with you. Contact me via the website]

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