Skip to content
Ditch the baggage and breeze through airport security
MORE FOR YOUR MONEY
Weighed down by the heavy-handed airport searches of carry-on luggage? Depressed about time wasted waiting for checked baggage to drop onto the carousel at the end of a flight?
Some travelers are lightening up — physically and mentally — by using luggage shipping services. Such companies handle baggage, generally picking it up at home or office and delivering it to hotels or other addresses at the passenger's destination.
"There's nothing better than going to the airport carrying only a book and a purse," said Barbara Pizik of Beverly Hills. "It's a fabulous feeling."
New Yorker Vickie Sheer, who travels weekly, agrees: "It makes life so much easier and relaxed." The service allows her to skip baggage check-in and claim, she said. "I walk from the plane, get into a taxi, and at the hotel my bag is in my room waiting for me."
The services, most of which sprang up after 9/11, mushroomed when security limits were placed on liquids last fall. Business is booming in the United States and Britain.
"After liquids were banned in carry-on bags, we nearly tripled our volume overnight," said Jeff Boyd, president of Luggage Free, a 4-year-old Manhattan-based company. "People were confused. The overriding theme was 'I don't have a good grasp on what I can bring.' "
The surge tapered off, he said, but business is still strong. "Airports mishandle a lot of luggage," he said. "People don't want their bags misrouted."
Travelers have reason to worry: The number of misrouted bags has increased at U.S. airports every year since 2002. Last year, about one passenger in 150 had a mishandled bag.
That isn't surprising. More people are flying, more of them are checking luggage because of security rules and there are fewer baggage handlers to work the system because many were laid off by financially strapped airlines. Add to that slow replacement of aging equipment and you have a system that has sent some customers scrambling to find other options.
Enter luggage shipping services.
"We've delivered 31 million suitcases and never misplaced one," said Richard Altomare, chief executive of Luggage Express. "Compare that to the airlines." Luggage Express, based in New York and Florida, is one of the oldest transport services, with 16 years of experience.
Here's how the luggage shipping services work: Customers fill out an order online or call to place a request. Some services require a day or two lead time to pick up a bag, but others — like Luggage Express and Luggage Free — say they can do pickups within an hour.
Bags are insured and delivered to the hotel or other address at the final destination, with shipping monitored by the service. The shipping services use various companies, such as UPS, FedEx and DHL, to handle the transportation.
Most of those using the services are luxury leisure travelers.
"We see a lot of families with children, elderly travelers who can't — or don't want to — carry as much weight as they once did, skiers and other recreational sports travelers," said Zeke Adkins of Boston-based Luggage Forward.
It can be pricey: Some services charge nearly $200 to ship a lightweight carry-on bag — about 20 pounds — across the United States overnight, although fees are less if customers OK second-day or later delivery.
But new airline charges take some of the sting out of the cost. Several airlines have tightened their luggage weight restrictions and added fees for overweight or second bags. Spirit Airlines charges $10 and up for a second checked bag and $100 or more for a third piece. British Airways last month added a $236 charge for economy-class passengers who take a second bag along on some long-haul flights, but the extra charge will not be rigidly enforced until September.
Besides the new charges at check-in, there's all that hassle.
"My boss got tired of dragging his golf clubs through airports," said Marsha Nieto, assistant to a Pacific Palisades businessman who travels about three times a month. She now ships his clubs using Luggage Forward. "It's great," she said. "And I can change destinations at the last minute without a problem."
But couldn't a passenger just ship the luggage himself?
Yes. But as Daniel DelliCarpini of Luggage Concierge, points out, "We have luggage coordinators who track your shipment so that when you arrive, your luggage is already there. And we offer complimentary insurance."
Beverly Hills resident Pizik used to pack and ship her own bags. "But I wasted too much time waiting for Fed-Ex to arrive and deliver on the other end," she said, adding that Luggage Free is punctual.
"And this way," she said, "I can communicate with a voice instead of with a computer."