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Luggage Shipping Services: Solving the Lost Luggage Blues

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fragile.jpg Many of you know Peter’s airline baggage philosophy: “There are two kinds of luggage. Carry-on and lost.”

As a result, Peter has checked only about three bags domestically in the last 10 years. His solution? Ship it.

Yes, it’s going to cost you some money, but it will save you at least two hours of aggravation.

Here’s how it breaks down:

You stand in the mile-long line at the ticket counter; even if you try to save time by checking in electronically, you still have to wait for an available agent to tag and weigh your bags.

Then, you schlep your luggage over to the TSA inspectors, where there’s usually crowd of bewildered-looking travelers hovering protectively over their bags.

Then, assuming your luggage even makes it onto your flight, you hike down to the baggage carousel and wait for them to show up.

If they don’t, it’s another lengthy process of filling out paperwork and then going to your hotel to hope for the best.

camera-case.jpgAfter the foiled terrorist plot in London back in August 2006, the subsequent liquid ban forced passengers to check their bags just so they could carry their own perfume, lotion and duty-free Black Label. And since then, the number of mishandled bags has skyrocketed.

According to the Aviation Consumer Report from U.S. Department of Transportation, in July 2007, the number of mishandled bags on reporting airlines was 466,250. (“Mishandled” is defined as “lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered”). In July 2006, before the liquid ban, it was 366,447. That’s more than 27 percent!

For the record, in August 2007, there were 437,141 reported cases, with United Airlines leading the pack with 29,331 mishandled bags. The best of the bunch was Aloha Airlines, with 1,375 mishandled bags that month. Click here for those reports: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/reports

If you’re traveling through London, it gets even worse—you can only carry on ONE bag, not two. And British Airways has been named the worst culprit among all 24 airlines in the Association of European Airlines. In 2006, BA misplaced or completely lost 23 bags for every 1,000—the worst performance among all member airlines. Between January and June of 2007, BA lost bags of more than 550,000 passengers (note, that’s lost, not damaged or pilfered).

And if your bags are lost, don’t expect great compensation. Airlines have a domestic liability limit of $3,000 per ticketed passenger (NOT per bag) and, under the 1999 Warsaw Convention, the international liability is $9.07 per pound up to $640 per bag.

So, whether you’re a business traveler or a family of five heading to Disneyworld for a week, shipping your luggage can be a time-saver that’s worth the extra bucks.

suitcases.jpg
Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of luggage-shipping services. You may be familiar with some companies that initially focused on shipping sports equipment like golf clubs and skis. These services actually use the same shipping methods as the rest of us—FedEx, DHL, etc., but will take care of the dirty work for you. They’ll pick up your luggage, drop it off at your destination, and handle details like filling out airbills, plus they may offer delivery guarantees and insurance policies.

Luggage Forward

The Boston-based company has reported that bookings in the fourth quarter of 2006 increased by 500 percent! If your item arrives late, the company will waive the shipping charge and cover up to $500 per piece for expenses that arise from the delay (such as purchasing new clothes, toiletries, etc.) Each item shipped comes with $500 of coverage, but you can purchase additional coverage up to $10,000. 866-416-7447, www.luggageforward.com

Luggage Club

Although they haven’t released any statistics, the folks at the Luggage Club have stated that business “is going very nicely” over the past year. Once you schedule a trip, the company will mail or email you shipping labels and any appropriate paperwork (you just have to sign). Each shipped item is insured up to $1,000 and you can additional insurance up to $10,000. 877-231-5131, www.theluggageclub.com.

Sports Express

Sports Express has recently acquired a few other luggage shipping companies, like Virtual Bellhop and Luggage Express, to become a leader in the luggage shipping industry. Pre-printed airbills can be faxed or emailed to attach to your bag. Each item is insured for $500, and you can purchase additional insurance up to $5,000. If your luggage is delayed, Sports Express will provide you with compensation to replace the items you can’t live without until your bags arrive. 800-357-4174, www.sportsexpress.com.

Luggage Free

Luggage Free will pick up your bags at a specified picks up at a specified time from anywhere in the United States including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Pickup is also available in Canada and select destinations in Western Europe. Shipping time is usually two days for domestic travel by air, but can take as much as seven to nine business days for Canada and Europe. The cost is $1.50-$7 per pound, depending on the location and delivery speed, with a $40 pickup fee. 800-361-6871, http://www.luggagefree.com.

So how do the prices of luggage shipping services measure up against more standard shipping options?

Check out these price comparisons:

Luggage Shipping Prices

Want to learn more about luggage shipping? Check out this video…

If you choose not to ship your luggage, here are a few tips on traveling right:

  • If you opt against travel insurance, which often includes lost luggage in the coverage, consider something called “excess valuation.” It’s a little-known insurance policy for your bags that you can buy at the airport. For both domestic and international flights, you can pay about $1 for every $100 of coverage; so $5,000 of coverage will cost just $50.
  • This may sound obvious, but it’s an important rule: Don’t check items that you need within the next 24 hours. That includes medicine, important documents or even clothing.
  • Never pack valuables. If you look closely at the airlines’ contract of carriage, they are not liable for items such as cash, electronic equipments, cameras, computer software, jewelry, art, some types of documents, or even life-saving medicine.
  • Don’t just put your name and contact information on the luggage tag. Those can be ripped off too easily. Put your information on the inside of the bag.
  • Take a picture of your bag’s contents. Your cell phone is perfect for this, as you can keep it on you at all times.
  • Place a copy of your itinerary inside your bag. Put your name and address on the inside of your bag as well as the outside and include a copy of your itinerary just in case the baggage tag gets torn off.
  • Look at the contents of your luggage before you leave the airport. Once you leave, it’ll be that much harder to claim lost items.
  • If your luggage is lost, go to the baggage claim area and fill out a form immediately. Make sure that you get the name of the agent helping you and the direct phone number to that office. Don’t let them give you the 800 number. This will make it that much easier to follow up, early and often.
  • If your bag is lost and you need to purchase new clothes, toiletries, etc., keep your receipts! You may get reimbursed, depending on your class and frequent-flier status, but that’s impossible without proof of purchase.

By Sarika Chawla with Carly Goldsmith for PeterGreenberg.com

Got Baggage Woes? Keep It Closed. Or check out Luggage Shipping Via Greyhound or Amtrak.

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