The cost of flying with your bike varies wildly from “This is large and awkward, so I’m going to charge you more,” to “This is the most lethal item on the face of the planet and I’m going to charge you so much you’ll never want to fly with it again.”
From what I can tell, most airlines will count the bike as your first checked back (or second, if you’re checking one already) regardless of size, though only a couple explicitly state this. They all require a hard or soft bike case, and soft cases are considered “fragile” (i.e. “we’re going to charge you a @#$%load more, even if we break it”). Also, if your bike case is smaller than 62 linear inches (L+H+W) and less than 50 lbs (total), then most airlines treat this as a regular checked bag.
As an example, I use the Trico Iron Case, which on it’s own weighs 31 lbs (~55-60 packed) and is ~88 linear inches.
Below I’ve compiled a list of the charges for flying with your bike on various airlines (as of 9/27/13). Charges are for each destination.
|CARRIER||BAGGAGE FEES||BIKE CASE FEES||NOTES|
|American||$25||$150||Acceptance conditional on aircraft size and load factors unless smaller than 62 linear in. and 50 lbs.|
|$50 (up to 70 lbs)
$100 (up to $99lbs)
|Counts as checked bag|
|Southwest||Free (1st and 2nd bag)||$75||Counts as checked bag|