Resort travelers opting out of checked baggage
December 16, 2011
Early check-in? Long- or short-term parking? Lines? Holiday airline travel can be daunting enough without the added another hurdle of figuring out what to do with that oversized bag. That’s why more and more travelers are opting out of the baggage hassle – and fees – this season, shipping skis in the mail to their resort of choice.
"It’s the one complaint we always here: customers didn’t want to deal with the airlines," said Shippack Place manager Ricardo Rusca.
When the winter season really gets under way, that is when the back wall of the mail-service store is stacked with skis and snowboards, Rusca said.
"It takes longer, maybe a week with ground shipment," Rusca said, "but it’s cheaper and you don’t have to deal with the hassle."
From 2009 to 2010, Rusca said he saw a roughly 60 percent increase in the number of people shipping gear in his store. Shippack Place, located on Kearns Blvd., started selling boxes for skis and snowboards in-house for customers.
A few years ago, Deer Valley Resort picked up a FedEx test program where guests of the resort could have their skis delivered straight to resort in ski corrals where guests later pick them up. While it wasn’t popular at first, when airlines increased baggage fees for customers, that’s when guests really started taking advantage, said the resort’s communications manager Emily Summers.
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"It’s not a money maker for the resort by any means, but there is a big convenience factor for our guests," Summers said. "There’s a perk not having to lug all that around the airport."
"Our ski corral offers overnight waxing, so you may never have to take your skis of the mountain," Summers added.
Some airlines accept skis and snowboards as checked baggage, applying standard fees. But between the jackets, snow pants, gloves, goggles and street clothes, most travelers use checked baggage for clothes, and standard oversized baggage fees for skis and snowboards can run anywhere from $50 to $175 per bag, depending on the airline.
"FedEx’s idea became a staple at the resort," Summers said. "People were looking for that other option. You don’t have to go straight to airline fees anymore."
When it comes to checking versus shipping, the more bags and skis checked, the more shipping becomes the cheaper option. FedEx Ground services could range from $20 to $40 depending on the weight and time allowance of the delivery.
"A majority of people are still using airlines," said Zeke Adkins, the co-founder of the international shipping company Luggage Forward. "We actually think that trend will continue because the behavior is so engrained. But every year the number of people that are choosing to ship is growing."
Roughly 31 percent of winter business for Luggage Forward is ski and snowboarding gear being shipped to Colorado and Utah. Adkins said Park City was one of their more popular destinations in the winter.
"We see lots of skis and snowboards going out," he added.
Adkins said airlines have become addicted to baggage fees, that they would be unprofitable without them.
Luggage Forward started in 2005 before airlines ever began charging baggage fees. The service is about convenience, Adkins said. For less than $100, Luggage Express can ship two sets of skis with the poles or two snowboards with door-to-resort service.
"People are looking at alternatives," Adkins said. "Typically, I know before I get on the airplane if my luggage is at the hotel. It’s a stress-free mentality as soon as you walk out the door; that’s when the vacation starts."
Companies like FedEx offer services like "Ship Your Gear," which offers discounts of 16 percent or more on shipments for snowsport industry employees who sign up with FedEx services. The National Ski Areas Association started a program in 2010 offering discounts to members wanting to use FedEx.