American Airlines is expanding their checked baggage services this week, now offering to deliver bags to a passenger's home, office, or hotel rather than just to the baggage claim area in the airport. The new service is aimed to make life easier for customers who don't require immediate access to their checked bags upon arrival at their destination. Nearly all American Airlines destinations in the United States are eligible for the service; travelers to foreign destinations or who originate travel outside the USA are not eligible for the service. More than 200 airports are currently eligible for the service as of August 6, 2012.
Rather than being sent out to baggage claim, they are flagged in the airline's systems and transferred to the delivery company, BAGS VIP. Their drivers will then provide the last mile service, getting the bags to the final destination up to 40 miles from the airport within four hours of the arrival time. For final destinations further afield the company offers slower delivery options—6 hours up to 100 miles—with an additional fee of $1/mile.
The rates for the service are actually pretty reasonable, particularly for families traveling together on a single reservation. For 3-10 bags the fee is $49.95; getting out of the airport with the family after a long trip rather than waiting an extra hour for bags could be well worth it at that price. Fewer bags are charged a lower rate. (Specifically, 1 bag is $29.95, and 2 bags go for $39.95.)
As of today the service must be purchased at least two hours in advance of travel and it can only be purchased online, not at the airport or through the AA reservations centers. Because it is a 3rd-party service, passengers are not able to redeem AA travel vouchers or gift certificates for the service.
Lost or delayed baggage is the most common complaint related to airlines, and the partners here are addressing that. If the bags are not delivered on the scheduled flight then the delivery service will handle filing the claim for a passenger, refund the fee, and coordinate for the airline to make the delivery once the bags arrive at the destination airport.
Yes, this is just another fee that can be added to the long list of ancillary charges that the airlines have managed to concoct over the past several years. But in this case it really is a value-added service rather than something that used to be included now costing extra (like booking seats next to each other). Besides, saving the time at the airport, easing the transfer to the rental car or parking lot shuttle, and skipping the lugging of all that stuff around can be quite valuable.
Photo credit: Baggage claim via Shutterstock