15 January 2013

Airlines - United introduces bag delivery service

Other than situations where an errant suitcase is delivered to a passenger, the airlines do not get involved with shipping bags beyond the airport baggage carousel.

Image courtesy of sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But now United is going to test a third-party service in which your checked bag is delivered directly to you at your destination.  For now, the service will be limited to five U.S. airports: Boston (BOS), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Honolulu (HNL), Houston Intercontinental (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), and Orlando (MCO).  One's originating city may be any U.S. domestic city, however.  (Example: flying from Chico to Boston on United connecting in San Francisco.)  (Author's note added 19 Feb 2013 - the initial test of this service must have been successful because as of today the service is now offered at 36 airports.)

For delivery within 40 miles of the airport the cost is $29.95 for the first bag, $39.95 for two bags, and $49.95 for up to 8 bags to the same location.  Beyond 40 miles an additional fee applies.

Lest you think that this would be a way to avoid paying United's own fees for checked baggage, it won't be.  But if you have a United Explorer VISA card like I do, or are a high-status Mileage Plus traveler, or are flying first-class, you don't have to pay to check the bag - you just pay for the delivery service.

Airlines are getting heat for adding fees for services previously provided for free, but this is not the same; it's a brand new service that has real value for passengers who are checking luggage.

Here are a few situations that occur to me where this would be of great value.

You're a business traveler headed to Chicago who has to go directly to an important meeting but you do not want to schlep luggage around all day.  You arrange for your bag to go directly to your hotel.

Your family of five (and five pieces of luggage) are going on a trip to Disneyworld and the last thing you want to do is ride the car rental shuttle with the Gang of Five and the Gang of Five Suitcases.  You arrange for the Gang of Five Suitcases to have their own ride to the hotel where you are staying.

You are traveling by yourself to spend a month in Boston.  You are not renting a car and you do not have someone to meet you at the airport.  The idea of lugging two giant suitcases on the Boston subway system to get from the airport to your lodging doesn't charm you, so you arrange for the bags to be delivered to you after you arrive.

If you can afford to pay a little money to make a problem go away, then you should do it, and this service can really make some travel problems go away.

I hope the service is so successful that not only United expands it to many other airports, but other carriers copy it.  It's an idea whose time has come.

Useful links:
- article from Frequent Business Traveler
- United Airlines website page with complete information about the service

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