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Originally published Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 11:13 AM

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United Airlines bashed on Facebook over bicycle fee

Joe Lotus, an attorney and bicyclist, has launched a Facebook page that blasts United Airlines for charging $175 one way to check a bicycle. It follows a wildly popular YouTube video last year that bashed United for breaking passenger/musician Dave Carroll's guitar.

Los Angeles Times

United Airlines' image took a beating last summer when Canadian musician Dave Carroll posted a music video on YouTube.com about how United baggage handlers broke his guitar while he was on a stopover at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

United representatives later met with Carroll to make peace, but the damage was done. The video went viral and has been seen nearly 8 million times on YouTube.com.

Now United is getting bashed again on the Internet, this time by Joe Lotus, an attorney and bicyclist who launched a Facebook page that blasts the airline for charging $175 one way to check a bicycle.

Lotus started the site (United Airlines is Ridiculous to Charge $175 Each Way to Travel With a Bike) on Feb. 10. Despite the lengthy name, it already has more than 5,000 members.

In contrast, the Facebook page launched by United Airlines has fewer than 2,000 members.

Lotus, a Chicago resident who competes in triathlons, said he created the Facebook page after he realized that taking his bike along would cost him an extra $350 for a round trip on United. Meanwhile, airlines such as Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska and Virgin America typically charge only $50 each way to check a bicycle.

But Lotus is not some frustrated economy-class whiner. He is a United Red Carpet Club member who has flown so much on United that he earned the premier executive status four years in a row.

"More often than not, the bike fare costs more than my airfare," he said.

United, Lotus points out, is also a corporate partner of USA Cycling, the official governing body of bicycle racing in the United States.

Andrea Smith, a spokeswoman for USA Cycling, said the partnership meant that group members got a 10 percent discount when they flew on United. But she sympathizes with cyclists who must pay the $175 fee.

"It's outrageous and we are completely sympathetic to that," she said.

In response to the criticism, United officials said they would review the bike-transporting fee.

"At the end of the day, that is what social media is for — to get feedback," said airline spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.

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