American Airlines announced a new bag-delivery service. Here's how it works: When you check in, you get a specially coded baggage-check boarding pass. Then, at your destination, you just walk off the plane and head wherever you're going. Your bag will arrive at any designated location within 40 miles of the airport in six hours or fewer.
The service is available to domestic passengers at more than 200 U.S. airports and to originating travelers at nine Canadian, Caribbean, and Irish airports where the U.S. pre-clears baggage. Destination delivery is not available at Las Vegas and select Caribbean airports. The cost is $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two, and $49.95 for three to 10 for delivery within the 40-mile zone; beyond that, you pay $1 per mile.
This service is available to buy only online, and if you want to use the service, you have to give American at least a two-hour notice.
Clearly, this service will appeal to quite a few customers. You not only avoid waiting for checked baggage to arrive in the baggage-claim area, but you also don't have to schlep heavy suitcases once you're off your flight.
Of course, if you really want to avoid baggage hassles completely, you can opt for a specialized baggage-delivery service. These outfits pick up your bags at your home, office, or hotel, and ship them directly to your destination home, office, or hotel.
Luggage Free, for example, charges from $2 a pound for delivery in five business days to $4.75 a pound for next-day delivery. So a couple with a 25-pound suitcase for each traveler would pay at least $100, compared with American's deal of $39.95 for delivery at just your destination. But if you factor in checked baggage fees for two bags at $25 each, the Luggage Free deal begins to look more interesting—if you don't mind either packing five days in advance or waiting five days for your stuff to arrive.
Another option is to ship your stuff by UPS ground. Costs vary by distance: A 25-pound package from the UPS Store near my home in Southern Oregon to a hotel at Walt Disney World would cost about $40 for six-day delivery. On that test, Luggage Free looks like a better bet, but results will be different for different trips.
All in all, whether you want to avid schlepping just at your destination or at both origin and destination, someone will happily help you—for a fee. And given today's airline checked-bag fees, the option looks better all the time.
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