Knopftours is able to fly your motorcycle to any major airport in the world from our headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. Below are the most commonly asked questions and answers to help in your planning. Topics cover both options where you are picking up your bike at the airport, or we are caring for your shipment right to our door for your arrival.
How Is the Pricing Calculated? First, most airlines calculate their pricing by volume. The volume weight is an industry standard and is calculated by length x width x height in centimetres (cm) and then divided by 6000. For example a BMW R1200GS is 230cm x 95cm x 135cm, which calculates to 491 volume kilos. But you must also consider that most airlines require a complete box around the motorcycle so the external dimensions of the box are the numbers to use and not the raw motorcycle measurements. There are some exceptions, such as Air Canada whereby you can fly your bike with their cargo service on a simple pallet and have a fixed price (details below).
How Do I Maximize My Space and Minimize the Freight Charges?
The airline takes whatever is higher – your actual weight of the motorcycle or the Volume Weight of delivered goods. For you, as a customer, it is best to get the volume weight and the actual weight as close together as you can. Some suggestions that help with this are to take off the front wheel to lower the overall height of the motorcycle as well as take off the mirrors and windshield. I only recommend taking off the wheel if you are able to put it back on the bike, on your own, at the airport when your bike arrives. Regardless of the height, we recommend windshield removal because it is possible that the airline can damage this. Be sure to cover the windshield and tie it down so it does not get scratched. The panniers off the bike can narrow the width and can be stored on the pallet or box floor. At Knopftours, we offer services to work with you to prepare your motorcycle safely and expertly for air freight.
How Does the Bike Need to Be Delivered? There are many requirements of bike delivery to have successful shipping. The battery needs to have one terminal disconnected and insulated from contact during the process. No alarms or other lights should be connected. The amount of gasoline in the bike should be on reserve and only enough gasoline left to drive to the next gas station when you arrive. No locks on the bikes should be locked closed, including the panniers. This is due to Customs having the right to inspect all contents that are being shipped. If there is a locked case, then the bike will not be processed and this will create a lot of costs, including storage from the date it was meant to ship. We recommend that a set of keys is zip-tied to the handlebars so that you have the keys when you arrive. Another tip is that if your battery is more than three years old, replace it with a new one before you ship.
What Can Be Shipped with the Bike? You can send all luggage that is relevant for your motorcycle travel inside the side cases. Please know that the airline takes no reasonability for the contents of the luggage. That being said, in my 28 years, there was never anything missing during the shipping process. If you have new items (for instance, helmet, clothing, GPS, etc.), unpack these from their new packaging or else you could be subject to paying tax on importing new items, which is 28% in Germany. The tax is the easy part as you could also be charged 100 – 300 Euros for the forms to be properly completed.
Can I Build My Own Crate? I do not recommend building it yourself as most countries, including the USA and many Asian countries, require a certification that the wood has been treated against bugs, pests, and other living creatures. If you build the crate from metal, it can greatly increase the overall weight. We will find the best solution for your bike shipping. We also make wooden crates at our location in Heidelberg.
Ready for Your Bike to Fly? So now your bike is ready for flight. We will deliver your bike about 6 – 8 days before the scheduled departure date to the airport. There the bike undergoes a safety check, where they x-ray the entire crate. Sometimes there can be an additional cost if there are issues with this process. We take care of necessary declarations and certifications and the Customs inspection to get approved for an export stamp. After all of this, your bike is ready to fly! The reason we deliver it early to the airport, 6 – 8 days early, is even though your bike has passed all the stages, listed here, the airline captain that day can decide that they will not be taking any more goods and your bike will be scheduled for the next flight. This does happen, but it is not often.
How Does it Work to Pick up the Bike at the Destination? Air freighting your bike at the start of your trip, we try to get your bike to the destination airport the day before you arrive, but this is not 100% in our control, it is the airline’s final decision. But, we have a very good rate of on-time delivery. What will happen if it arrives early and you are not there, is that most airlines have one-day free storage. For sending your bike home it is best you are waiting at the airport when your bike arrives so you can act ASAP.
What Happens When the Bike Arrives at your home airport? On your Freight Paper, your phone number will be included because the airline will call you once your bike has arrived. We will also send you a copy of the papers when we get them from the airline. An important number is the Air Waybill (AWB) where you can follow or track your bike at the airline cargo website.
What Are the Costs at the Airport if you pick it up? There is a paper delivery fee that is normally between 20 – 50 Euros charged by the airline. There is a storage fee if you are not there on time (remember there is often a one-day grace period). If you have a wooden pallet or box that is made for you, it is your property and you need to take care of disposing of it properly. You are not automatically entitled to the dumpsters, but if you give the worker a 20 Euro tip and ask him to access the trash, this often helps. Remember, the box is your responsibility to dispose of.
How Do I Actually Claim My Bike? So your bike is now at the airport and you need to pick it up! First, you need to get to the airline cargo area and pay your bill. You will need to present your documents to Customs. There are ways to handle this process. Knopftours will have provided to you all the Customs papers filled out (only for USA collection), then you go to Customs and ‘clear’ the bike. Normally this is straightforward, 99% of the time, very quick, efficient, and you will be happy because it saves you money and time. Here is a valuable piece of advice. Be gracious and accommodating with the Customs officers - who can think they are second to God. If they feel like they're being bossed around, they might make it very difficult and time-consuming to get your bike released.
Is It My Responsibility to Clear the Bike from Customs? Yes! Remember, be nice to everyone you see there, especially the Customs officer. Like with the wooden crate mentioned earlier, we have no influence or responsibility to clear the bike. Some countries need, or require, a Carnet de Passages en Douane (AKA Carnet), or immediate proof of insurance, so please do your due diligence and look into this, or ask us, prior to having your bike freighted. You are always welcome at Knopftours to have a talk about your bikes, shipping plans, etc., especially if there is a group that would like to fly additional bikes.
What are the Real Costs of Shipping Air or Sea? Air freight may seem to be more expensive compared to sea freight. It is not always true as it depends on where you fly your bike. For instance, before Christmas is an expensive time. You can always contact us for Sea Freight information to compare. If you are making the trip of a lifetime, I always recommend flying your bike at the start of the trip and consider sending it home by sea freight. From the USA, for instance, it is very challenging to fly your bike due to the added regulations after 911, whereby dangerous goods are often prohibited in an outbound passenger flight, which is the common way that 99% of the bikes travel around the world. The paradox in this is that air freight is allowed into the USA. Do not ask me why – it is just a USA mystery.
What if My Bike is Coming by Air to Germany? If you send your bike to Germany, send it to Frankfurt. We have considerable expertise and knowledge on how to clear the bike very efficiently and hassle-free since we have a longstanding relationship with Customs in Heidelberg. We are able to clear your bike as Tourist Status so that means that you do not have to pay any duty, but this also means that after some time your bike has to leave the European Community (EU). The advantage with Tourist Status is that you can ride your bike, or car, with your USA license plate and registration. Please contact us to have a chat about how this process works.
What Do You Need to Have for Tourist Status in Heidelberg? We transport your bike with a T1 inbound paper from Frankfurt to Heidelberg and officially clear Customs in Heidelberg, where we have a long-time, good working relationship. In Frankfurt, Customs can often charge you 28% tax as they are not as familiar with the Tourist Status.
What is the Process for Clearing Customs in Heidelberg? Once in Heidelberg Customs, we have to present a copy of your title, passport, and a statement with all your personal information: name, address, bike make, bike model, bike year, etc. Also, we show a signed & dated statement that you will have your motorcycle for personal use and vacation while in Europe.
Do I Have to Buy Insurance? This is the last and most important part! You need to have Green Card insurance. You can get this directly from Knopftours to allow you to legally ride in Europe (see Green Card page for details). Even if you are not here when your bike arrives, we can process it so that the Green Card insurance begins on the day you arrive. We have an understanding with Customs that our clients are arriving later deal with Customs about the post-dated insurance.
When Should I Air Freight My Bike? We recommend you send your bike up to two weeks earlier than you arrive to give us plenty of time to pick it up and clear customs. We DO NOT charge you any storage at our place up to 14 days before your arrival. This will allow you to relax and have your bike awaiting your arrival at our place. If your bike arrives in Frankfurt on Friday, and we are unable to pick it up until Monday or Tuesday, the airline can charge storage. We will transfer this exact cost to you without any extra charges from Knopftours.
Is it Possible to Fly My Bike on Air Canada? Yes, you can fly your bike on the same airplane you are on with Air Canada. But I always recommend that you schedule the bike to fly 1 or 2 days before you are in Frankfurt because it is not guaranteed that your bike will fly with you. If your bike does not arrive at the same time, you will be without a bike in Frankfurt and hotels are not cheap there. This happens about 1 out of 10 times, so our recommendation is to fly the bike before you as it is much easier.
Is Customs Ever Closed in Germany? Yes. This is for your consideration so you try to make your bike arrive on a Monday through Wednesday, and sometimes Thursday, so you can avoid closed Customs on the weekend and holidays. Also, check for holidays in Germany as we have a lot of them in May and June.
Can I Clear Customs on My Own? We offer the same shipping service as described above, also, for Air Canada air freighting. But, if you desire to do it yourself, plan ahead for Customs closing on Saturday and Sunday. Also, contact us 4 weeks before to send you your Green Card insurance which you will require at Customs. There are other rules at Customs that you should talk to us about as one wrong word can change everything, especially about your length of stay. If you ask for 6- 8 weeks of travel things will be easy – never mention anything over 3 months. Have all your papers ready, a copy of your passport, copy of your title, copy of your Green Card insurance, all in high-quality color, then you may be out of there in just ten minutes and ready to go.
I hope that all this information is useful for you about air travel with your bike. If you have additional questions, send me an email.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL CUSTOMS ARE CLOSED ON WEEKENDS (SATURDAY AND SUNDAY) AND IN CERTAIN MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY. The only airport that is open 24/7 is Los Angeles, California!