The increased airport security since the September 11th terrorist attacks has hurt the airline industry… but created a boom in another. Luggage forwarders pick up, ship and deliver suitcases for passengers - usually business executives and luxury travelers - who want to get on and off their flight without the hassle of baggage, and are willing to pay a premium price. But with airport security measures tightened across the United States, many more economy air travelers are using these services to avoid the long lines going through baggage screening. In Boston, reporter Monica Brady-Myerov has the story:
Nancy Rhodes has just arrived at Boston's Logan International Airport from Asheville, North Carolina. She scans the suitcases moving past her on the baggage carousel. "I'm actually looking for my luggage and it doesn't seem to have arrived."
According to the Department of Transportation, from January to June of this year, U.S. airlines mishandled 1.7 million bags. One of them appears to be Rhodes'. She looks distressed as she explains, "We're going to a wedding and I don't want to go in Capri pants and sneakers." Rhodes says she feels vulnerable when checking her luggage, as if she may never see it again.
But there are other options for getting suitcases to wherever their owners are going. One type of service allows flyers to check in remotely and uses the airlines to ship the bags. The other - such as Luggage Forward - uses regular cargo companies to ship bags, separately from the passenger, door to door.
Aaron Curley, co-founder of Luggage Forward, says it may be expensive, but it buys the traveler priceless time. "They can save an hour of time during travel that they could spend sitting on the beach or with friends and family."
After the London plane-bombing plot was revealed on August 10th, Curley says his business soared. "Initially, we saw probably more than a doubling in an initial surge, and things were really busy."
Demand increased 20-40% for another company, BAGS Incorporated. Vice-president Dan Sherfield says that in response to the new restrictions on liquid, gels and pastes in carry-on bags, many more travelers are checking their luggage.
"We're a benefit to all sides of the industry," he says: "to the airlines, the T.S.A. and, especially, the passengers." Sherfield says the airlines are happy to relieve congestion in their waiting areas, the Transportation Security Administration is pleased because their screeners don't get inundated with all the bags for a flight at once, and passengers have a lighter load.
But there's no reason for passengers to pay extra for a service to ship their luggage, according to David Castelveter, spokesman for the association that represent the major U.S. carriers. He says the airlines are doing a good job handling luggage as they always have.
"Whether or not these programs are successful will be personal decisions made by travelers," Castelveter predicts. "We don't think it brings real value to customers. We don't hear from our customers that they like to be separated too far from their personal property, their luggage. They want their luggage with them on the airplane that they're travelling [on]."
Nevertheless, with the new carry-on restrictions, industry analysts believe luggage-forwarding businesses will continue to grow.