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 ?…



carry on bag measure The incredibly shrinking carry on luggage gaugeYou’ve seen the cage-like hand luggage measuring stations in airports, I’m sure. On occasion, you’ve probably been asked to test your carry-on in one of these boxes right before entering the jetway.

If your bag fits in the box, your carry-on is of approved size. If it’s too big, you either pay a fee or check the bag, depending on which airline you’re flying, and in which country.

Well, British discount airline (and bmi subsidiary) bmibaby has apparently been messing with their gauges. And (gasp!), the discrepancy in measurement is not in the passenger’s favor.

A leading budget airline may have unfairly charged thousands of passengers because its measuring devices for hand luggage were too small.

Customers of bmibaby were routinely asked at departure gates to put their hand luggage in a metal cage to ensure it met size restrictions.

Many failed the test and had to put the bags into the hold at a cost of £60 for a return flight.

Just delightful. The airline imposes the fee, then puts its thumb on the scale to ensure that it’s collecting some cash, even from those who are working within the rules to avoid the surcharge in the first place.

Even if we don’t assume malice, the airline has a responsibility to ensure that its scales and gauges are accurate.

If you’ve been charged an oversized-carry-on fee by bmibaby in the past, consider contesting the charges or demanding a refund. £60 isn’t chump change.

And maybe it’s time to start packing a tape measure.

Categorized in: airlines, luggage

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!
 Smart marketing: InterContinental brands will reimburse (some) airline baggage fees

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

Checked baggage fees are perhaps the most hated of the current round of fee hikes, but Delta has figured out a way to make the fees more palatable… for some. The airline’s marketing team has linked Delta Amex card membership with checked baggage fee waivers:

Starting June 1st, Cardmembers with a Gold, Platinum, or Reserve Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express—and up to eight travel companions within their reservation—will automatically receive a first checked bag fee waiver upon check-in for all Delta and Delta Connection® flights.

This only applies to general members of the SkyMiles program, of course, since elite-level members are already waived out of paying the baggage fees — for two bags.

Assuming a single checked bag, checked both ways on a roundtrip, Delta Amex holders would save $50 per person on the itinerary. (Up to eight travel companions?! Big crowd. But that could work out to quite a savings.)

The cards charge annual fees — the gold, platinum, and reserve cards charge an $95, $150, or $450 (!) annual fee, respectively — but if you’re not an elite member of SkyMiles and you’re going to be traveling with Delta (and checking bags) anyway, it may be worth signing up for a card.

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