How much would you pay to avoid waiting for your luggage at baggage claim?
It’s part of a drive by major carriers to make traveling easier for customers, and to make a little extra profit in the process. If the service is successful, it could be something of a win-win for airlines and customers.
“We are more driven by time,” said Melody Andersen, director of customer strategy for US Airways, describing why she believes passengers are ready for bag delivery. “We want things to be as hassle free as possible.”
At US Airways, which began the service earlier this month, the cost is $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two bags and $49.95 for three to 10 bags.
Customers still bring bags to the airport. But after the flight, a service contracted by US Airways takes them from the carousel and promises to deliver them within four to six hours, although sometimes the service is considerably faster. The destination must be within 40 miles of the airport or an extra fee is required.
At American, which will soon merge with US Airways pending government approval, the program is nearly identical. So is bag delivery offered by United. All three airlines offer the service, which is actually handled by a contractor, at each Los Angeles-area airport they serve.
Passengers must be on a flight arriving from another U.S. destination or a foreign airport at which U.S. Customs and Border Protection maintains a pre-clearance facility, such as Toronto and Dublin. At least an hour before their flight, customers must sign up for bag delivery on a website.
In a recent interview, Maria Walter, a United managing director for product and brand strategy, said the carrier is seeing a lot of repeat customers since launching the program in January. But she said it has been difficult to drive new business, in part because airline passengers are concerned about leaving bags for someone else to fetch.
“There’s been this inherent distrust of, ‘My bag gets lost if I’m not managing it myself this whole time,’ ” Walter said. “So getting people used to the idea of, ‘We’ll get it from baggage claim and get it to your hotel’ is something that is going to be a bit of a paradigm shift for people to get used to.”
Robert Mann, a New York-based airline industry analyst and consultant, said only a small slice of customers might be interested in a baggage deliver service. And he said that the customers with the best ability to pay — business travelers with expense accounts — are probably the least likely to check a bag, given the short durations of most trips.
“All you are really avoiding is waiting for 25 minutes at a bag belt,” Mann said. “It’s an issue of what is your time worth or what’s the inconvenience of going to the bag belt.”
Andersen, of US Airways, said the service could be helpful to families, noting that she used it after a recent vacation.
“We just wanted to get home,” she said. “We were tired. We didn’t want to wait and we didn’t want to deal with the four extra bags. It was a nice benefit for us. The bags were delivered about 20 minutes after we got home.”
Bag delivery might be convenient, but whether it is a short-lived fad or a long-lasting service enhancement probably depends more on whether it brings profit to airlines than anything else, Mann said.
“Airlines are looking for the sweet spot — something that customers want and are willing to pay for and on which you can make a margin,” Mann said. “There are a lot of people who want a lot of things. They’re generally not willing to pay for them.”
Tim Winship, publisher of the blog Frequentflier.com , said the price of the service might be a little too high for most customers. He called it a “splurge.”
“It might be worth $29.95 to bypass the baggage claim scrum and have your bag delivered directly to your home, business, or hotel,” he said. “But most travelers will also have to factor in the $25 fee charged by the airlines, too, for each checked bag. So on a round-trip basis, the all-in price is more than $100 — just to get your luggage there and back.”
Troy Daniel Smith, an independent film producer in Los Angeles, said he is intrigued by the service. Waiting at LAX this week for his bag to arrive off his United Express flight from Wichita, Kan., Smith tweeted: “I expect the Duchess’s labor will be more swift.”
“Having something like this, though it is an extra service and you’re paying for it, I think it would make travel easier for some people,” Smith said.
(c)2013 the Daily News (Los Angeles). Distributed by MCT Information Services