A few weeks ago, we told you Air Canada was reviving its motorcycle cargo program for 2017, with details coming later in the spring. Now, we’ve got some more information on what destinations are available and about this year’s rates.
This year, Air Canada offers its special motorcycle cargo rates from May 1 to September 30.
Generally speaking, it seems rates are up this year. It also seems Air Canada is sticking to its policy of shipping only within Canada, or to European destinations. There are no South American or Asian destinations available; customers had trouble with South American flights in the past, which brought on the cancellation of the offer for those routes. It’s too bad, as Air Canada offered a very affordable way to cross Panama’s Darien Gap.
Air Canada also offers no special motorcycle cargo rate to any destinations in the United States or Mexico, or Australia.
Here’s the direct link to the Air Canada web page for bikes, but here’s the rundown and some handy advice from previous experience:
Where can I go?
Shipping inside Canada, as before, is limited to airports that handle wide-body jets. You can ship your bike from Halifax to Vancouver, but don’t expect to ship it from Charlottetown to Bella Coola.
If you want to ship your bike to western Europe, it seems Air Canada wants you to start your trip from Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto. From there, the rates change slightly depending which airport you’re flying to. Options include Frankfurt, Paris, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, Rome, Casablanca, Brussels, and others; if Air Canada can’t fly you to the country you want to visit, it can probably at least fly you to the country next door.
What does it cost?
If you purchase a passenger ticket along with your motorcycle cargo fare, you can expect to fly to those European destinations for about $1,200-$1,300 CAD one way. If you don’t purchase a passenger ticket, air fare will be about $1,400-$1,550 CAD.
Getting your motorcycle back to Canada is more pricey, just as in previous years. Expect to pay around 900 Euros for shipping your motorcycle back to Canada if you also purchase a return ticket, and around 1,200 Euros if you don’t purchase a return passenger ticket.
Inside Canada, it will cost you about $900 to ship your bike one way if you also purchase a passenger ticket; if you don’t buy a passenger ticket, it will cost you about $1,200.
Remember that the prices above are for air fare only. Shipping your bike by air requires you get a certificate from a company that clears dangerous goods for each flight. Expect to pay at least $100 for this in Canada, and probably more at the other end, if you’re returning from Europe.
Shipping your bike outside the country will also require you to clear customs. In Europe, that should be straightforward, but you may end up paying some fees for paperwork. Of course, there is no paperwork after landing in Canada.
Also, Air Canada recommends you insure your motorcycle. Insurance cost is 3 per cent of your bike’s value; for instance, a $10,000 motorcycle would cost $300 in insurance.
Air Canada says its motorcycle rates are locked in for the season, but remember that passenger tickets prices are not. If you’re planning to purchase a passenger ticket along with your motorcycle fare, it might make sense to plan ahead to get the best price there.
How do I get my bike ready?
In order to pass clearance for your dangerous goods certificate, you should show up for the inspection with a quarter tank of gas or less. The dangerous goods inspector will also want to know the bike’s weight, and the name of the shipper/consignee. In past years, some passengers have reported shipping their motorcycle luggage attached to the bike, with their gear packed inside.
We’ve also heard Air Canada doesn’t want you shipping your luggage attached to the bike (an Air Canada rep says it depends on the weight of the luggage). If you do want to try this, make sure you don’t have shaving cream, a camp stove, etc., packed in your luggage – don’t pack anything that won’t pass dangerous goods clearance. However, camping equipment like a hatchet or knife is okay, because your bike is locked away in the cargo area.
If you call ahead and give them some information in advance, it shouldn’t take long to clear the dangerous goods inspection, but remember, you might only be able to do this inspection during regular business hours. Don’t leave it until the last minute. And, it would make sense to find and arrange this service for your return flight before you leave.
Depending which city you’re flying from, Air Canada may recommend a specific business to clear your dangerous goods; you may be able to find one on your own.
After you arrive at Air Canada’s cargo terminal, airline staff will prepare your bike for shipping. You don’t take care of tying it down — they do.
What happens after I land?
If you were smart, you either shipped your bike ahead of your own flight, so it’s waiting for you, or you flew on the same plane (not always possible or recommended). If you’re in Canada, the airline staff should be able to guide you through the process of unpacking your motorcycle at the airport.
If you’re overseas, Air Canada will give you the customs documents for your bike, and you are responsible to clear it through customs.
What about the competition?
We also called WestJet, curious to see if it offered a special cargo rate for motorcycles. Alas, the agent we talked to said WestJet did not have any such deal, since it didn’t want to deal with flying dangerous goods.
We have not heard of any foreign-based airlines offering motorcycle cargo discounts for flights originating in Canada. If you’re in less of a hurry and headed overseas, shipping by sea is usually much less expensive but takes a month or two.