Ever been on the tube or a packed train en route to the airport with a large bag that is getting in people’s way? I have. It’s horrible.
The whole carriage – I assume – is looking at you and secretly blaming you for their cramped journey, and get narky when you block the walking route on the escalator.
That’s one of the reasons Airportr has come up with its AirPortr + Bag check-in service. Couriers come to your home – or hotel – to pick up your luggage and hand-deliver it to the airport for you. You don’t see it again until your destination’s airport carousel.
It sounds like it might save some hassle, so Travolution gave it a try.
It’s a straight forward booking engine. At www.airportr.com, type in your address, how many bags you want to check in and choose which London airport – out of Heathrow, Gatwick and City – you are departing from. Currently, the service is limited to London and is only available on British Airways flights. Travolution understand there are expansion plans in the pipeline if the service proves popular.
Then you get a quote. For me (my case went from Islington to Heathrow), it came out at £30 for it to be taken, and checked-in, on my BA flight to Cyprus.
For £20, I could have had it taken to the AirPortr desk at Heathrow and check it in myself when I get there. But I fancied my bags going all the way without me, so I took the first option.
Next up, add your flight number and date of departure – so make sure you’ve got that info handy. Confirm the address and let them know whether it’s a home, hotel, business or different airport then add your email address.
You then choose your collection slot, much like when you’re doing an online grocery shop. Choose either the same day or day before but it must be at least seven hours before you fly.
And on confirmation I learnt that they’d also take a cabin bag for me, which I can collect at the AirPortr desk in departures. So that’s an option, which I didn’t take, if you don’t want to carry your laptop on public transport.
Enter your payment details and note your reference number which should be sent to your email address and you’re done. Better get packing.
I was flying in the late morning, 11:40 to be precise. So given pick up has to be seven hours ahead, I chose between 8-9pm the night before (the latest slot). Now I’m usually a last-minute sort of packer, so I might be biased, but I did feel a little rushed to have to have everything ready by 8pm. The comfort was knowing that if I realised I’d forgotten anything then I was still at home and able to bring it with me in the morning. So the European plug adapter went in the hand luggage, as you’d imagine. I’m the sort of person who only has one toothbrush, but I didn’t fancy carrying that with me so ended up nipping out to buy a new one for my night time and morning brushes.
The courier was very friendly but, crucially, you have to be there yourself (just as you do at a traditional check-in). This is of note though, because big-wigs can’t have their personal assistants check their bags for them. And if there’s a group of you travelling, each passenger whose luggage is collected must be present. You must also have your boarding pass with you, so ensure you print it off in enough time.
Weight restrictions apply as usual. My man guesstimated my luggage’s weight and told me that if he suspected it was anywhere near the limit (it wasn’t, I weighed it myself) he had a device which could check I was under the airline’s allotted limit.
If you don’t adhere to the rules, like being there in person, they’ll still take your bag to the airport but you’ll have to check it in as usual once you get there.
You can also track your booking from the moment it leaves you to in a shiny white van to arriving at the destination airport.
As you’d imagine, it was pretty uneventful. This is the bonus. It was quite nice to be without a heavy case as I was on board the tube before picking up the Heathrow Express from Paddington. I’ve used Heathrow Express previously and luggage on that 15-minute journey is not usually an issue but being baggage-less on the Victoria and Bakerloo lines was quite a relief. I also opted to set off a little later than I might have had I needed to check my bag in. And it did save time. On arrival at terminal 5, I cruised right though security checks (which, in fairness, is down to the efficiency of the airport) and was sat at my gate in departures within 15 minutes of arriving on the train. I could have left it even later.
At your destination, you pick up your luggage as you would normally, so there is no difference there. Although I did notice the padlock I’d connected the two zips together with had been removed. I must add that Airportr offers the same service on return to London with BA. I travelled back via a different route so was unable to use the service myself in this case.
Thanks @AirPortr_UK. My baggage arrived safely in Cyprus after your courier picked it up from my house last night!
— Ben Jaxen Ireland (@ben_ireland_11) November 29, 2016
I must admit it was nice to travel luggage-free on my way to the airport, and the fact that I felt a little too light on my feet was probably just the nerves of doing it for the first time. But will the service take off? I’m not so sure. My difficulty with it is that business travellers happy to expense the cost could probably just fork out for a taxi and not have to battle through public transport crowds anyway – and the same goes for leisure travellers happy to pay a little more for luxury. That said, they Airportr’s added bonus is that they’d skip bag drop at the airport, if flying BA.
I did quickly check the price of a taxi from Brixton, which was £17 more expensive than the £30 Airportr fee – so with a bit of forward planning it might make life easier for some thrifty holidaymakers travelling on the Piccadilly line who want to make their lives easier without forking out for a taxi. But there’s always the option of buses and shuttles to consider.
My courier, interestingly, admitted that the majority of users of the service so far are either “business people or middle class”. One of AirPortr’s big sells is helping business travellers squeeze in extra meetings. So, maybe some high-flyers will be able to have their bags taken while they meet partners to thrash out that last hurdle in a big deal before they jet home. But I suspect their hosts would be happy enough to mind their bags anyway.
I expect the service will remain a rare luxury or a nice business perk. And as long as it is limited to London and BA, I don’t know how many global travellers will know about it. But by targeting big spending passengers, Airportr could certainly dip into the high-end holiday market – which is big business.