Travel TechnologyThe safe transfer of luggages from one destination to another is now a key concern for travellers amid the pandemic.

How Covid-19 is changing the luggage experience

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Some 67% of travellers are worried about the check-in process and collecting their baggage at the airport, an IATA survey finds.
Some 67% of travellers are worried about the check-in process and collecting their baggage at the airport, an IATA survey finds. Photo Credit: Nutthaseth Vanchaichana/Getty Images

Among the many concerns travellers face as they venture outside the home amid the coronavirus crisis is how to safely transport their luggage from one destination to another.

According to a recent passenger survey from the International Air Transport Association, 67% of travellers are worried about the check-in process and collecting their baggage at the airport.

We make it really simple to ship your luggage the same way you might buy an airline ticket on Kayak.– Aaron Kirley, LugLess

Additionally, there are questions around how to safely store luggage once in a destination, as well as around the logistics of packing for road trips (a family of five, for example, can only fit so much in one car).

As a result, travellers are turning to various luggage solutions to reduce touch points and the hassle of getting from point A to point B.

AirPortr

With AirPortr, travellers can avoid lines and baggage drop-off at the airport altogether by checking in their bags from home.

The service, available in the United Kingdom, allows passengers to select a time slot ahead of departure for the airport, and a driver will come to collect the bags – while also verifying documents and sealing the cargo – and deliver them directly to the plane.

AirPortr CEO Randel Darby says that not only does the solution save travellers time and eliminate interaction at the airport, but it also offers them peace of mind that their luggage is on the same flight. "What we've done is removed the bag from all the bottlenecks in the journey.”

Launched in 2016, AirPortr works with seven airlines, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines, which incorporate the technology into the booking flow.

Darby says that in Europe, regulators, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been issuing different policies and guidelines to airlines and airports, "a number of which focus on baggage as a problem area,” he says.

They’re saying, 'If people are going to be flying, we need to get people through the process quicker. What are the parts of the journey that slow people down?’ Well, obviously bags are a big part of that.”

AirPortr, Darby believes, is "a solution to airlines and airports in helping them rebuild a safer travel ecosystem," and the London-based company is seeing increased demand from potential airline partners that are working toward that goal.

Darby says customer booking intent for the product reflects pre-Covid-19 levels, despite a lower number of passengers flying. "Engagement with our product almost totally negates the impact of coronavirus," he says. "At the beginning, it was all panic and looking pretty scary. Now, we're in the solutions category, and we're seeing that reflected in demand, so [coronavirus] could actually be an accelerant for a business model like ours.”

Compared to shipping luggage – which Darby says it at odds with airline incentives designed to gain revenue from baggage – AirPortr "actually increases that baggage revenue because every customer we acquire through our B2B partners, we then pay ancillary revenue back to those partners.

“Not only are they maintaining their core baggage revenue, but they're now earning an additional margin on top of that to selling the product.”

Over the next few months, he expects AirPortr’s number of airline partners to double as airlines look to rebuild traveller confidence and travellers seek safety and efficiency. "I think it will go from a 'nice to have' to more of a 'need to have' in the category."

LugLess

For Boston-based LugLess, the luggage-shipping service is seeing a spike in demand after a drop in business at the beginning of the crisis.

In 2019, LugLess co-founder Aaron Kirley says the company was growing about 300% year-over-year and was on a similar trajectory in 2020 until March, when business declined by about 50%.

Business has since bounced back: In June, LugLess’ customer base grew 144%, up 60% from June 2019. "In fact, in June, we broke every record we had as a business," Kirley says. "We had our biggest booking day, most bags shipped, highest revenue.”

While the concept of shipping luggage is not new – and has historically been for the luxury set of travellers – Kirley says LugLess has leveraged technology to drive down the cost by searching for the lowest shipping option among multiple carriers.

To ship luggage, travellers just need to print labels and drop off bags at a UPS or FedEx location (or schedule a pickup). The service is available in the United States.

"We make it really simple to ship your luggage the same way you might buy an airline ticket on Kayak,” Kirley said.

Although LugLess does not track the mode of transportation travellers are using, it does monitor the types of addresses where the luggage arrives. "One thing we're seeing is almost no travel to hotels right now," he said.

He says about 1% of bookings are to hotels, and about 80% are going to residences, which include homes booked via platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo. “That’s significantly up from what we've seen in the past – usually the residential/hotel mix is much closer.”

Although some travellers using the service are likely driving by car – choosing to ship their belongings rather than fill up a vehicle – others are travelling via airplane and opting to ship their bags to avoid check-in lines and pulling luggage off of the carousel at the airport.

Kirley says LugLess, founded in 2018, is currently in discussions with two major airlines in the US about formalising programmes, but generally speaking, partnering with airlines is "a tricky thing because airlines make a lot of their revenue off of baggage”.

Due to the crisis at hand, however, airlines are more open to talks because they “want to do anything they can to make travel easier for people right now and realise we're offering something that helps make that possible."

LuggageHero

Meanwhile, for travellers needing to store bags while in-destination, LuggageHero offers customers a touchless and flexible option.

By using the service – based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and one of PhocusWire’s Hot 25 Startups of 2019 – travellers can book a storage facility via app or web and are responsible for handling their own bags, eliminating any physical interaction.

Although Covid-19 has had an impact on small businesses across the board, causing some of LuggageHero’s partners – which include retail outlets, cafes and hotels – to shut down, founder and CEO Jannik Lawaetz says its well-performing storage partners located in tourist hubs “have managed quite well, given the situation”.

“I think many businesses have had to rethink their products and market fit, so new ideas and initiatives emerge to fit the demand,” he said.

“Aside from this, it’s also a great advantage for us that our partners are many different types of shops and locations. They’re independent as opposed to being chains, and geographically we are spread out in many markets, including those where the pandemic hasn’t been as severe.”

LuggageHero, which expanded its footprint by acquiring Knock Knock City last year, operates in 41 cities across North America and Europe. In May, the company, founded in 2016, crowd-sourced €409,000 (US$481,000) in funding.

Lawaetz says the service is particularly beneficial to consumers in the age of coronavirus because of the flexibility it offers.

“Travellers want to be agile when travel rules change. So I think the more flexibility we can offer, the better off we’ll be. To me, shipping [luggage], while it has its benefits, is the opposite of flexible.

“Also, I should add that the majority of our customers are younger and travel looser. So, again, flexibility is key.”

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