Had a Thule and a Pika. Sold the Thule, and bought another Pika [wife and I travel together]. The Thule was just too bulky, especially to get it into a rental car at the other end.
We make at least 4 trips a year with bikes. Always used the soft cases. Taken off the RD hanger, and till now never had an issue.
If we carry disc brake bikes, I remove the rotors too.
Many years ago we used Tardis bags, but they really provide no protection at all. We used them only for steel touring bikes. With The Pika, we carry our carbon and titanium bikes as well.
Also, never paid for bikes. We select airlines that allow bikes free.
We also have 2 Orucases, which are nearly airline dimensions, but you need to take out the forks. Not used them yet.