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Travelers shipping luggage to avoid airline fees

Who would you rather give your money to - the airline or FedEx and UPS?  Aug 11, 2008

Facing fees of up to $50 to check in a piece of luggage when flying, some travelers have turned to shipping services to get their bags to their destination.

At the UPS Store in Sudbury, Bob Zidle will ship a bag about once a week, and he expects this sort of business to increase.

"Last month, we probably saw it twice in the month,'' Zidle sid. "Next month, especially with back to school and people going back to college, I expect to see it on a daily or every-other-day basis. It will be someone who travels who just wants to carry a novel or crossword puzzle.''

FedEx spokeswoman Janella Loaiza said the company has heard of the phenomena of shipping bags, but has little data on it.

"You can definitely ship your luggage using FedEx,'' Loaiza said. "There is no way for FedEx to verify the numbers of people doing so.''

Zidle has even started including the service in his advertisements.

"My most recent advertisement has not only the back-to-school message, but also the airport angst message,'' Zidle said.

Shipping a bag by normal UPS ground transportation to a spot east of the Mississippi, like Chicago, costs about $1 a pound, Zidle said, depending on the size of the bag. Sending the same bag to the West Coast costs about $1.50 a pound.

Airlines charge different rates per bag. American Airlines charges $15 for the first bag and $25 for the second, and $100 for the third to fifth, according to a survey by Northwest Airlines allows one free checked bag, the second is $25, and each additional one costs $100. Continental has a similar system.

Bags that weigh more than 50 pounds incur large penalties, typically $100 or more.

Depending on how much the bag weighs and how far you are traveling, Zidle said, shipping may or may not be cheaper than the airline baggage fee.

"Shipping a 40 pound bag to the West Coast probably costs $50,'' Zidle said.
While FedEx offers overnight and two-day shipping, Loaiza said many may prefer using the company's ground service.

"A lot of people choose to do ground, which is more economical,'' Loaiza said. "(Delivery) takes one to five business days, based on weight and distance of the destination.''

Travelers must think ahead to make use of shipping. It will take a day to get anywhere between New York and Maine, Zidle said, and a bag going to Chicago will take two days. Bags going to Los Angeles take four days, and anywhere else in California will be five, he said.

Cost may not be the only concern, Zidle said, noting that travelers shipping bags could avoid lost luggage situations.

"The advantages are incredible,'' Zidle said. "Shipping gets the box where it is supposed to go, not Hawaii, and it will get there on time. Plus, you don't have to worry about customs inspections at the airport.''

Using UPS, items automatically are insured for $100, should any problem arise, Zidle said.
Loaiza recommends customers contact their hotel or final destination to make sure they accept luggage in advance and have secure locations to store that luggage until they arrive.

Also, certain potentially dangerous items cannot be shipped, Loaiza said, including aerosol sprays, perfumes, colognes and nail polish remover.

Using UPS, bags can be shipped without a box, Zidle said, but a small fee is charged.

"If someone just ships a bag, UPS charges an irregular fee because they can't put (it on a) conveyor belt,'' Zidle said. "The fee is about equivalent to the cost of the box you would put it in, so many people buy the box.''

Who would you rather give your money to - the airline or FedEx and UPS?

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