1. When using Expedia. Hotwire or any other discount online site to order tickets, BEFORE buying the tickets that you want, make sure to check that airlines baggage allowance policies first, on that airlines web site and maybe even with a call to Customer Service to verbally verify that, those are the fees. It can get pretty complicated - so know what you are dealing with. A trend I have noticed is that the airlines that often pop up at the top of Expedia, or Hotwire or other sites listings, with the least expensive airfares for tickets, are the airlines with the most constrained, ridiculous and expensive extra baggage and bike charges. It may be worthwhile in the long-run to pay more up front for a certain airline that has known and reasonable bike fees. For example, Air Canada has a fixed and set fee of $50 each way for bikes.
2. On-line discounted tickets often have connections, sometimes on different airlines. Sometimes you will get hit TWICE with extra baggage charges. Even when you think you are on one airline, sometimes one airline partners up with another outbound and inbound, or again via connections, and again you may get hit twice with the charges. Again, phone customer service and sort all of this out before committing to any ticket purchase. Whenever possible fly direct.
3. Try using a bike box that does not scream, THERE IS A BIKE IN HERE! You might get away with no, or minimal charges. As some know, I use a soft Aerus Bike Bag and this often, even though it's slightly over-size, passes as regular checked luggage. It's light with the bike in it(about 27 pounds), compact and slings over my shoulder so when walking up to the ticket counter, it looks like a regular piece of my luggage. The only charges I have ever paid for my Aerus bag, is as a second bag charge which is $25 - $50.
4. Dress discretely. If you dress like a lot of triathletes I see traveling by plane( You know the kind!!) then, Check-In agents will know RIGHT AWAY what is in the bag/box. Business casual is good, does not give anything away, and seems to work for me.
5. DO NOT overload the bike bag or box. Some airlines fees are cumulative. Thus, you'll pay for the BIKE, you'll pay for an extra bag, you'll pay for over-size AND you'll pay for over-weight!! There were people who I met at Ironman Hawaii last year who paid more to get their bikes to Hawaii than for their own tickets sitting in the plane. I guess the bonus was in the plane they got 3 pretzels and two mouthfuls of Coke for no extra charge! Read Point #1 over again.
6. Finally. Don't make a scene at Check-In. The only thing that works these days is to play really dumb( but a nice and polite dumb, please), and they might take pity on you(But, you have read this - so you should know all there is to know). Harassing Check-In agents will do nothing for you, and will only make you look like a jerk. I have been queued up behind triathletes before at Check-In and the behavior that I have witnessed has been appalling. Don't be THAT triathlete.
Hope this helps.
This was posted on the TriRudy News List