« Last post by rickpaulos on May 29, 2015, 11:16:45 pm »
Last time I few United with a bicycle, I felt very fortunate to get it back in 1 piece. That was quite a while ago, when "Bikes Fly Free" at United if you are a member of various cycling organizations. That's gone now.
1: the standard bike box is too big to fit in many of the the bomb scanners so the TSA ripped it open to do a swab inside the box. The TSA just put 1 piece of tape over the top.
2: on the return, the TSA ripped open the bottom of the box where the staples are and did their swab. No tape or anything else added to keep the box shut. Once the staples are gone, the standard cardboard bike box loses all it's strength. Big items go in first, meaning a few tons of suitcases are dumped on your bike for the duration. FYI, you are not allowed to assist!
3: when i got off the plane, I was waiting for the bike at the baggage carousel. I caught a glimpse of a service door opening and my bike box came flying into the room and the door slammed shut. Fortunately I had put all the loose parts in a plastic grocery bag, knotted that shut, put that bag inside another plastic grocery bag and tied that to the frame. Otherwise all the parts would have been lost too. I'm glad I didn't take an expensive bike that trip.
I would never fly again with a good bike in a card board box. Or my Trico Iron case as that is difficult to close up, far beyond the ability of the TSA.
Flying to Europe? There are plenty of European air lines that don't charge for bikes, don't require they be boxed or crated and treat flyers like customers instead of criminals.
It can be well worth driving hours to get to an international airport and just bypassing USA regional airlines. I'm a four hour drive from O'Hare. The gas & parking are much less than the extra puddle hopper flight to get there. The drive time isn't much different when you include layover time and check ins. And I can use a foreign airline directly.
For all domestic trips involving air travel, we now ship our bikes fedex ground or ups in advance in Trico Iron cases.
There are other sports specific shipping companies that can work well.
Sometimes you will be way ahead to just buy or rent a bike at your destination.
Gotta have a good bike of your own? Consider getting a Bike Friday, a Ritchie Breakaway or a bike with S&S couplings. All those can fit in large suitcases that the TSA and airlines handle just like all the other baggage. Just don't wear your cycling gear to check in to give yourself away.