Checked bag charges are an airline industry cash cow: U.S. carriers pulled in an easy $800 million dollars in the first quarter of 2010 for a service that was free on most flights just two years ago. So, it’s not too surprising that UPS is trying to nudge its way into this market.
Yesterday, the company debuted its “luggage box,” a suitcase-sized shipping container that at first glance makes mailing bags to hotels seem pretty appealing. Made from sturdy corrugate, the containers hold up to 55 pounds of travel essentials and even have handles for anyone who wants to reuse the box on another trip. Flyers just pack their stuff, drop it off at a UPS store, print a return label to send the box home at the end of the trip, and hop on the plane.
Sounds dreamy, except that UPS doesn’t offer any special rates for these boxes, and even the cheapest delivery makes checking bags look like a bargain. According to the company’s online calculator, sending a 55-pound large luggage box overnight from New York to Los Angeles runs a whopping $298.98. Ground service costs a more manageable $68.07, but that’s still nearly triple the $25 most airlines charge for the first bag on domestic flights – and you’ll have to ship at least four days ahead of time.
Of course, airlines hike rates significantly for second and third bags, so flyers moving across the country or traveling with big-ticket items like skis and golf clubs should investigate shipping options. Case in point: Flying with three 50-pound bags on American costs $160. UPS ground shipping charges $204.21 for three similarly sized luggage boxes, a difference that might be worth it in order to skip the snaking lines of grumpy flyers at check-in.
Still, there are plenty of other ways to skirt airline fees, so as much as we’d like to stick it to the man and breeze through security hands-free, UPS’s new spin on an old service doesn’t make much sense – at least cost-wise – for everyday travels.