Why You Should Transport Your Bike in a Cardboard Box
Reports of the potential demise TriBike Transport reminded me again of the advantages of my preferred method of transporting my bike on domestic or international flights, the humble cardboard box. My first experience travelling internationally with a bike, essentially backpacking with it around Europe on trains and ferries in the 2000s, I used a specialized hard bike suitcase essentially. It was OK but the case itself was very heavy and it took some time to break it down.
Now, no matter where I'm going, I take it in a cardboard box I can usually get for free from a bike shop. They usually have them lying around after getting new bikes delivered and are happy to have you recycle them. The size of the box doesn't have to be precise and generally any adult MTB or road box will work. The tighter the fit obviously the better for reduced movement inside the box and ease of carrying.
This video does a good job of explaining how to do this. I am not mechanically talented at all and manage fine. I also stuff the box with other various triathlon light stuff (towels, googles etc etc.) and skip some of the padding measures he takes (although my bikes are generally cheaper than you're average age grouper!) Just don't forget to put the screws in a securely closed bag so you don't lose them (I've had that panic moment before).
The next video covers some of the specifics of breaking down a triathlon bike. There's not much difference except for the head set (1:03) and how you position it in the box.
So the other cost saving, aside the packaging, is going to be in the transport. SouthWest only charges an additional $75 for a bike when you pay at the counter. Check with the airline but I've paid $100-150 internationally. Compare that with your TriBike Transport rate, other bike shipping services (I've used bikeflight.com successfully before) or regular shipping and I think you'll find it cheaper. If you're just going for a weekend and pack the box with other stuff it could be the only checked luggage you need.
I've also felt comfort that my bike is on the some flight and me. One annoying thing is that the box is usually a target for a TSA inspection and they may not take the same care retaping it after they've had a look as you did. Fingers crossed but I've not yet had my bike damaged, lost or delayed (or auctioned off by the carrier of a bankrupt transport company!) by bringing it with me this way.