Brompton as Carry-On Luggage
“Can I really bring my Brompton on-board an airplane as carry-on luggage?”
YES! It’s a little dicey, but it can be done. I've not yet had an instance where I’ve been told, “Uh, Sir, no.” Always possible, but so far, so good.
“How can I bring my Brompton on as carry-on luggage?”
Here’s how I do it.
1. Remove the saddle.
Pack the saddle, elsewhere, like a backpack or suitcase. You might be able to leave the saddle on the bike, but that makes it a bit more iffy when the bike passes through the X-ray machine. On an aside, the TSA agents (unlike airline ticketing agents) have never cared what’s in our bag that’s passing through their imaging machine, as long as it doesn’t get stuck and as long as it’s not dangerous. Hence, we play it safe and take the saddle off the bike as a little extra insurance that it’ll pass through the X-ray machine.
2. Use lots of pipe insulation.
I use insulation ‘sticks’ commonly available at almost any Home Depot, as well as a tennis ball, with an “X” cut at one end, to protect the top of the seatpost. The insulation sticks are easy to cut with scissors and nicely wrap around Brompton tubing. The tennis ball is a little harder to slice. We used a box cutter. A quick aside, if we were POSITIVE that our beloved Brompton would always be permitted on-board, we wouldn’t worry about protecting the Brompton inside the travel bag. But no guarantees and it’s always possible a grumpy flight attendant will insist that the bike be gate-checked, along with all of those baby strollers and car seats. In such an event, it’s reassuring to know that your Brompton is well guarded inside its carrying case.
3. Find any good Brompton-sized bag.
As long as it can fully enclose the bike, you’re golden. This can be as simple and inexpensive as a Dimpa bag from IKEA, or something more robust (and more costly), such as the Carradice folding bike case.
4. Luggage straps
See above photo. Use the straps to cinch-up the floppy areas of the bag, which helps reduce the overall appearance of your nicely-packed Brompton.
And that’s it! Multiple flights and we’ve not yet been asked to gate-check a Brompton. Keep in mind that some overhead bins on commuter flights are small and this trick won’t work on those planes, in which case you’ll have no choice but to gate-check. In my experience, for 737 planes and larger, I’ve never had an issue tucking-away a Brompton in the overhead compartment.
Brompton inside black Carradice bag (left).