Baggage

Baggage Nanny debuts at San Diego Int’l Airport

Here’s a great new airport service and a candidate – already – for Airport Amenity of the Week:

Baggage Nanny, an on-demand baggage pickup, storage and delivery service, is now operating at San Diego International Airport.

The company plans to expand its service to other airports soon.

The service addresses the problem of what to do with your luggage when you land at an airport but can’t yet check into your hotel and – on the other end – what to do with your luggage once you check out of your hotel and head back to the airport.

Through Baggage Nanny’s website, travelers arriving at an airport can make a reservation to drop off their bags at a kiosk in the terminal.

Baggage Nanny will hold onto that bag and then deliver it to the traveler’s hotel or another address in town at a specified time. Baggage Nanny will also pick up bags and store them at the requested terminal for the traveler ahead of their departure.

The cost: $20 for storage, no matter what size/weight and includes delivery within a 15 mile radius. Extra charges apply for destinations beyond the 15 mile radius.

Right now, Baggage Nanny has a kiosk in Terminal 1 at the San Diego airport. The plan is to expand to Terminal 2 as well and to additional airports, including Portland International Airport, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Nashville International Airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Good idea? We think so.

Airlines vow: better bag tracking + fewer barriers for passengers with disabilities

My feature this week for CNBC details two good-for-travelers resolutions voted in recently during the Annual General Assembly of the International Air Transport Association.

One deals with a way to better track baggage. The other promises that the global airline industry will ease barriers for passengers who have disabilities.

Here’s a slightly different version of the posted story:

Airlines spend lots of time, energy and money competing against each other for your travel dollar and loyalty, even though high fares and excessive fees often make it seem like they’re in cahoots to make sure your journey is a frustrating, expensive nightmare.

But sometimes the industry works together to takes global action in your favor.

At the recent Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry trade group passed a handful of resolutions aimed at making the passenger experience better for everyone.

Two of the resolutions that might make a noticeable difference on your next flight, and on flights into the future, address bag tracking and accessibility for people with disabilities.

Better baggage tracking. Fewer lost bags.

Most frequent travelers can share a story or two about a checked bag that got mangled, arrived days late or went missing.

But while passenger numbers soared 64% between 2007 and 2017, information technology company SITA found that the bag mishandling rate per thousand of passengers fell by 70.5%.

In 2018, 4.36 billion travelers checked in more than 4.27 billion bags.

“More bags makes things more challenging,” notes Peter Drummond, SITA’s Director of Baggage, and while “Everyone across the industry needs to look beyond the process and technology improvements made in the past decade and adopt the latest technology such as tracking to make the next big cut in the rate of mishandled bags.”

Right now, most airlines use bar code technology to track bags through their journey. But some airlines, such as Delta, have switched to RFID (radio frequency identification) tracking, a form of wireless communication used to track objects with an embedded RFID chip.

IATA considers RFID tracking to be a more cost-efficient method to achieve the industry’s target of 100% bag tracking. And at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) adopted a resolution supporting the global deployment of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for baggage tracking.

“Passengers want to arrive with their bags. And on the rare occasion when that does not happen, they want to know exactly where their bag is,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, “Deploying RFID and adopting modern baggage messaging standards will help us to cut mishandlings by a quarter and recover bags that are mishandled more quickly.”

While fewer lost bags will make airline customer happy, the push for RFID tracking move isn’t entirely altruistic.

While the industry has already seen a 46.2% cut in the annual cost of baggage mishandling due to better tracking, IATA estimates industry-wide adoption of RFID bag tracking will see a return on investment of over $3 billion to the industry.

Smoother travel for passengers with disabilities

1 billion people – 15% of the world’s population – live with some form of disability.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says this number is increasing due to aging populations, the spread of chronic diseases, better measurement tools and refinements in the definition of what constitutes a disability.

Of course, people with disabilities are also travelers. An Open Doors Organization (ODO) market study from 2015 found that adults with disabilities spend $17.3 billion annually on their own travel.

ODO notes that since these individuals typically travel with one or two other adults, the economic impact is at least doubled, to $34.6 billion.

But air travel poses a myriad of challenges for people with disabilities.

For example, between December 4 and December 31, 2018 (the first month the Department of Transportation required airlines to track this category) major U.S. carriers mishandled more than 700 wheelchairs and scooters, more than 2% of the 32,229 mobility devices loaded on airplanes.

“That’s 25 people a day who may have been stranded, unable to work or participate in a family activity,” explains Chris Wood of Flying Disabled.

Noting that improving the air travel experience for people with disabilities is not only “the right thing to do,” but good for business, IATA also passed a resolution committing airlines worldwide to ensuring that passengers with disabilities have access to safe, reliable and dignified travel.

The industry trade group said its aim is to change the focus “from disability to accessibility and inclusion” by bringing the travel sector together with governments to “harmonize regulations and provide the clarity and global consistency that passengers expect.” 

The resolution has the ability to enhance the passenger experience not only for people who currently have disabilities, but also for those in years to come, said Eric Lipp, Founder and Executive Director of Open Doors Organization.

“Most importantly,” said Lipp, “This is the first time IATA has recognized this on an international level. And this is in good timing with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Globally the time is right.”

Free ice-skating + free bag drop service at Denver Int’l Airport

Free ice-skating is back at Denver International Airport. DEN has also added a free early bag drop service.

The free ice-skating rink at Denver International Airport’s outdoor plaza is back again for its third season.

The rink is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through January 6 on the DEN Plaza between the main terminal and Westin hotel.

Even better, there’s no need to travel with your own skates.  The “Skate Shop” Airstream trailer located on the plaza has free skate rentals in many sizes.  For those who don’t want to skate, but just want to hang out, there are bleachers and lounge seating.

A partnership this year with United Airlines, the DEN ice rink will feature music each day and offer free hot chocolate and cider starting at noon on Fridays. There will also be special appearances and performances on the ice every Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. including curling lessons and mascot appearances.

“Ice skating on our pop-up ice rink has quickly become a signature event for Denver International Airport,” said CEO Kim Day. “It’s just another way we’re demonstrating our commitment to an improved passenger experience. For flight crews, travelers, employees and even local residents, skating with the dramatic backdrop of the Jeppesen Terminal is becoming a seasonal tradition.”

Denver International Airport recenty introduced another helpful amenity:  free early bag drop and check-in service at the Transit Center and at the Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert shutttle parking lots.

The bag-drop service allows passengers to drop off their bags, check-in and get a boarding pass before entering the terminals luggage-free.

At the parking lots, travelers can drive in and drop off  their bags before they park. A greeter at the bag drop kiosk will remove the bags from the car, complete the check-in process process and print out a boarding pass. That means no luggage to drag onto and off of the shuttle van to the terminal. Nice!

Keep in mind, that bags must be dropped off at least 90 minutes before a flight. And while the bag drop service is free, those pesky airline baggage fees will still apply. But those fees can be paid at the bag drop locations too.

The DEN bag-drop service is being offering at the Transit Center daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m and at the shuttle parking lots Saturday–Thursday  from 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Friday from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Passengers traveling on domestic flights with Southwest, United, Delta and American Airlines are eligible to use the service. Flights to international destinations are not eligible for the bag drop service.

Find more details about the new bag drop service at Denveral International Airport here.

In a press release, Denver International Airport claims this is the first such service at an airport. But in 2012 Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport introduced early bag drop service at its East Economy parking lot and at the PHX SkyTrain Station, expanding the service to the rental car center in 2014.

Unfortunately, PHX no longer offers early bag drop service. But here’s hoping it comes back.

United Airlines drops fee for surfboards. In California.

Surfer dudes and dudettes take note: United Airlines has dropped the fees it charges to check your surfboard – if you’re flying direct to or from California.

Surf Sirens, by Ray Leighton. Courtesy Flickr Commons, courtesy National Library of Australia

(Photo: Surf Sirens, by Ray Leighton. Via Flickr Commons, courtesy National Library of Australia)

Noting that surfing was recently named California’s official state sport, United Airlines is no longer charging surfers traveling to or from California (only) a $150 or $200 special fee to check surfboards, wakeboards or paddleboards.

Instead, only the regular checked bag fees will apply.

United’s new policy only applies to direct flights into or out of the Golden State.

Flying with your surfboard on another airline? Here’s what it will cost:

Alaska Airlines: surfboards/paddleboards (and may other pieces of sports equipment) flies as regular checked baggage.

American Airlines:  $150 surfboards, kiteboards, waveboards, and wave skis.

Delta Air Lines: $150 USD/CAD for travel to all regions (excluding Europe and North Africa)

Hawaiian Airlines: $35 to neighbor island; $100 to other North American destinations.

JetBlue: $100.

Southwest: $75.

Have you traveled with a surfboard? Please share your tips for getting sports equipment on and off planes safely.

KLM’s augmented reality bag sizer for carry-on bags

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has added an augmented reality bag sizer tool to its app to help passengers figure out if their carry-on bags comply with the airline’s rules.

The augmented reality bag check tool shows a virtual KLM suitcase that is the size of a carry-on bag that fits the dimensions of the bags KLM allows on board.

When the user points their phone at their own carry-on bag, the augmented reality tool can measure the bag against the sample bag.

Here’s a video that shows how the tool works.

 

While it seems that many passengers ignore most airlines’ rules about the dimensions of carry-on bags allowed,  the augmented reality tool seems like a great way for resposible travelres to comply with the rules.

This also seems like a good way to avoid arguments at the gate when KLM gate staffers are being sticklers about enforcing the rules.

If it works well, this is a tool every airline could add to their app.

Passengers could use it to measure their bag before they leave home. In the boarding area, gate agents who feel a bag is oversized could just aim their version of the app at a bag. If there’s debate, both passenger and gate agent could take a screen shot of the results.

Now there just needs to be a way to weigh bags with an app!

KLM’s app offers some other augmented reality features as well, including a 360-degree display of a Dreamliner aircraft and, in the KLM Houses App, a look at Anthony Fokker’s House 98.