luggage tag Upgrades and Downgrades: Baggage check in, cellphone room keys, defending AirTran, TSA Downgraded: Checking in your bags at US airports
You’ve mastered the self-service check-in. You’ve printed your own boarding passes. Now, get ready to tag your own checked bags: “American Airlines(AMR) and Air Canada say they’re in talks with the Transportation Security Administration for a trial program in Boston likely later this year to let travelers tag their own checked bags for the first time in the U.S. Delta Air Lines (DAL) says it’s in talks with TSA for a trial at another airport.” Not a huge deal, frankly, and 32 airlines worldwide have already been testing this for some time at airports around the world, but it’s new to the United States. It’s another transfer of responsibility from the airline to you. Don’t expect to receive any discounts, vouchers, or thank-yous for doing someone else’s job, either.

Upgraded: Inflight wi-fi on Southwest
Southwest is (finally) getting on the inflight wifi train (err, or plane…) and their price will be a relatively low $5 per connection, regardless of flight duration/distance or device used to connect.

Upgraded: Passion for AirTran’s first class seats
Fans of AirTran, which is being taken over by Southwest, have set up a website devoted to saving the first class seats that AirTran frequent fliers have grown accustomed to. Join the resistance at

Upgraded: Your cellphone as a key
The Clarion Hotel in Stockholm is the first hotel to install a cellphone-based room lock/key system. It’s a limited rollout, for starters. In theory, you’ll be able to check in by phone and walk straight to your room, bypassing the front desk, and avoiding the need for a room key. Neat, if it works.

Upgraded: Back-channel efforts to change our security theater
If existing efforts to change TSA policy have failed — and if the policy itself has continuously gotten worse for travelers — then perhaps a back-channel effort to effect change may be in order. Reader Ed sends in this open letter to the CEO of the Walt Disney Company. The letter-writer, Arthur Krolman, argues that Disney is tacitly endorsing TSA policy, and is thereby supporting the “nude photography or inspection of private parts” of children. Ouch. Will Disney take the bait ?…


luggage unclaimed Smart marketing: InterContinental brands will reimburse (some) airline baggage fees
For a limited time, InterContinental Hotels Group properties will reimburse some guests’ checked baggage fees. So a hotel chain — including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites — is indirectly subsidizing airlines. Interesting.

Beginning Aug. 16, when travellers book two consecutive weekend nights at any one of the 4,500 IHG hotels worldwide for stays between Sept. 1 and Dec. 30, 2010, their checked bag is free. Travellers can participate each and every weekend they stay with an IHG hotel during the “Check It Free” promotion period, when they pay for their hotel stay using their Visa® Card.
Download a rebate form via and submit it with copies of your hotel receipt and baggage fee receipt for the same trip postmarked by Jan. 31, 2011.

Rebates are in the form of a prepaid Visa card, which carries monthly fees if you don’t exhaust it within six months.

The rebate has quite a few moving parts: 1) weekends only, 2) 2 night minimum, 3) Q4 only, 4) pay with Visa. Break any one of those rules, and say bye-bye to the rebate. Plus: 5) expiring-balance on the rebate itself.

Given those restrictions, this is potentially useful for weekend getaways. But for weekend getaways, won’t a carry-on suffice?…

So this ends up being great PR for IHG, but not necessarily something that will benefit the masses. That said, if you can map this out in advance, and you can make this work: Go for it!


Categorized in: hotels, InterContinental, luggage

ups luggage box Dumb ideas in baggage transport: UPS new luggage boxes
I know that checking bags stinks. I avoid it like the plague. Not only do you increasingly pay for the privilege, but the risk of the airline losing your bag is not to be ruled out. But UPS’ solution — their new luggage box — isn’t much help.

The company is touting it as the answer to runaway airline baggage fees, with the added bonus of direct-to-destination shipping. You take the packed box to a UPS Store, pay your fees, and off you go.

But that’s just it: you pay your fees. Hefty, heft fees.

For starters, you pay for the box itself. Granted, it’s intended to be reusable, so it’s perhaps a bit sturdier than your regular brown cardboard box. But it’s still a box. And it costs $12.95 for the small box or $17.95 for the larger one. And that’s if you can find it — not every UPS store has it, so you may need to order it from the company, and pay shipping.

Then there’s the cost to ship the box itself:

To ship the small size box at a maximum weight of 55 pounds between Los Angeles and New York on UPS’s ground network would cost about $66, including the price of the box, Rosenberg said. It would take about four days to get there. The large box would ship for about $92, she said. Delta currently charges $25 for one bag weighing less than 50 pounds that is checked in at the airport.

55 lbs. is frankly an odd amount to be using as a metric, since airlines in the US typically run up to 50 lbs. I guess that makes the UPS option look better?

In any case, paying $25 for a bag that travels with you, and that doesn’t take four days to get to its destination, starts to look pretty good. Sure, you have to carry the bag to the hotel or car. But is that worth $75 or so?

Pass me a tinfoil hat, but the UPS offering is so bad, it’s almost as if the airlines put them up to it, to make the airlines’ checked baggage fee look like a good deal.

Categorized in: luggage

honeybees Upgrades and Downgrades: Bees, fees, recline, Ryanair, and more
Upgraded: Hotel Honeybees
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Charlotte has a new amenity: Rooftop honeybees. The hotel restaurant will use approximately 70 lbs. of honey produced by the hive.

Upgraded: The Widespread Status Quo of Not Charging for Carry-On Bags
Five airlines have pledged not to start charging for carry-on bags: American, Delta, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, and US Airways. Yay, status quo!

Downgraded: Recline on Spirit
Upgraded: Marketing spin!

Spirit Airlines, which never skips an opportunity to be passenger-unfriendly, is downgrading its seats, preventing you from reclining. The best part, calling them “pre-reclined.” Nice work, Spirit marketing team!

Upgraded and Downgraded: Fees on Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines is increasing the checked-bag fee for the first bag, by $5. But then they’re reducing the fee for the second bag, also by $5. The third bag’s fee drops by $30. And the fourth bag drops by $50. The new baggage fees apply to travel starting June 16 for tickets bought beginning May 1. At the same time, Alaska no longer lets you hold a reservation for 24 hours. Alas.

Upgraded, eventually: Ryanair Reimbursement
If you were stranded by the volcano and Ryanair was your airline of choice, you were likely cursing their name. They weren’t much in the way of reimbursing costs for stranded passengers: They covered the equivalent of the base cost of the ticket, which, given Ryanair’s revenue model, isn’t much. But it may have been illegal: “The European Union, which enforces consumer laws that hold airlines responsible for stranded passengers’ ‘reasonable costs,’ warned Ryanair it could face fines ranging from euro5,000 to euro150,000 ($6,750 to $202,500) per complaint.” Subsequently (and nearly a week late), Ryanair has agreed to cover the lodging and meal expenses of stranded passengers, as the EU law requires. But the company is challenging the law — and the airlines’ responsibility in situations like the recent volcano — with an appeal to the European Commission and the European Parliament.


It had to happen, and it’s no surprise — at all — that it’s Spirit who’s doing it. The airline that started us down the path of fees-for-everything in the US is back, with a vengeance, charging for both checked baggage and now, carry-ons that go into the overhead bin.

Spirit Airlines will charge as much as $45 each way for a carry-on bag, adding a fee that bigger airlines have yet to try.

The charge will apply to bags in the overhead bin. Personal items that fit under the seat will still be free. Spirit said it will add measuring devices at the gates to determine which carry-ons are free and which ones will incur the charge.

The new charge is $45 if paid at the gate, and $30 if paid in advance, and begins Aug. 1. Spirit said today that it reduced its lowest fares by $40 on average, so most customers won’t really pay more to fly.

Spirit also charges to check luggage.

Nice spin re: reducing fares by $40 on average. This coming from an airline that often pitches $9 base fares with cutesy sale names.

Airfare comparison just got harder again. A fare on Spirit may now look cheaper than a fare on, say, JetBlue, despite the JetBlue fare including carry-ons and one checked bag. A “deal” may not be a deal once you add in all the fees.

As I’ve argued time and time again, there will be people upset with Spirit for doing this, but until people wise up and start voting with their feet (and wallets), this will continue.

(Thanks, Irv!)

- Spirit’s latest indignity: Middle seats for a $5 fee
- Spirit Airlines keeps it classy with their M.I.L.F. sale
- Spirit Airlines’ CEO flips his customers the bird
- Consumer victory: Spirit reverses its “web convenience fee”
- Is Spirit Airlines’ new club worth joining?

Categorized in: luggage, Spirit Airlines
Posted by: Mark Ashley

United Airlines has a short-term promo for those who want to ship their bags ahead, instead of checking them at the airport. Their “Door to Door Baggage” service, which transports your bags overnight via FedEx, normally costs $79 to $99 each way, but they’re cutting the price to $25.

From their press release (emphasis added):

For the low price of $25 per item each way, customers can send their bags, golf clubs and skis ahead to their final destination via FedEx standard overnight delivery.
Customers booked for travel between March 18 and March 29 within the continental United States on at least one United-operated or United-marketed flight are eligible. Sale prices are limited and available until 5 p.m. EDT on March 19 or while supplies last. Travelers may purchase the Door-to-Door Baggage option up to 10 days before departure.
A customer may ship up to nine bags at the limited $25 price, per bag. Weight, size and other restrictions apply.

Nine bags at that rate??! Wow. Cheap. If you’re moving cross-country, this deal is for you.

But… you have to reserve this by Friday the 19th. Which is a stupidly narrow window of opportunity if they really wanted people to take advantage. Needless to say, this won’t help a lot of people. But someone may benefit.

Categorized in: luggage, United Airlines