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Hands Free Travel – personal baggage couriers

According to the Association of European Airlines 6.2 million passengers had their luggage delayed or lost in 2007.

According to the Association of European Airlines around 6.2 million European passengers had their luggage delayed or lost in 2007. This covers everything from “It’s on the next flight” to “Your bag no longer exists at any meaningful level in this universe.” It costs the airlines millions of pounds each year and even today as I write, it’s been announced that Emirates is trialling a new method of “chipping” baggage in order to ensure its safe arrival. Whatever the outcome, it’s annoying and often highly inconvenient not to have your things when you’re abroad and a number of companies offer a personal luggage service so that your luggage travels separately from you.

Just think – no more lengthy check-in queues, no trawling heavy suitcases from the car-park, no pacing up and down luggage carousels and no more pondering why your suitcase has visited more countries than you have.

I looked at a number of companies offering this service and there seemed to be some common issues. Firstly, they didn’t pick up at weekends and so either you’d have to miss work (because let’s face it, you will definitely need a decent job to afford this lot) or lug all your stuff to your workplace – which sort of defeats the purpose of the exercise.

Secondly, they tend to pick up your things several days before you go and deliver it back to your home again in a similar timeframe. Now, as an average bloke, I dislike shopping for clothes and consequently I possess a modest collection which caters for my needs very nicely. If I were to use this service for my two week holiday, I would effectively have to have a three week supply of things (since laundry on holiday is a no-no). This, I calculated, is 21 pairs of boxer shorts. Such a collection of pants is beyond the dreams of avarice as far as I am concerned and it’s not just a wondrous collection of smalls I would need either. Most of my wardrobe would go into my suitcase and I would be left either side of my holiday parading around in the remainder – another day out in my dinner jacket then.

It was also unclear what your luggage does before you turn up. I am no hotelier, but I would be unhappy having to deal with ownerless luggage for a couple of days. As the owner, I would be equally unhappy not knowing who was looking after my stuff especially since some of the sites also specify the bags must remain unlocked for security reasons when you hand them over. With my priceless collection of pants inside – are they mad?

My main issue was with the prices though. Even the more “reasonable” ones are still quite expensive and unless you are pretty well off or incredibly lazy then I think most people would prefer to lumber around with their bags. Where these services would be useful is for elderly and/or disabled people though I would be surprised if many could afford the prices.

People with children might want to use this service as well, so I invented a fictional family of four who were off skiing for a week (I know I use skiing a lot, but it’s a useful and popular hobby to illustrate the point). They all have skis and boots and two large suitcases for the adults and two smaller ones for the kids. The prices to get to France and back in April 2008 are as follows:

Website Pick Up Date in UK Luggage Returned to UK Boxer Shorts Factor (days) Cost (£)
Carrymyluggage.com 08/04/08 22/04/08 14 763.75
Flymycase.com 09/04/08 22/4/08 13 950.81
Directbaggage.com NA NA NA 1382.37
Firstluggage.com 08/04/08 22/04/08 14 1412.80

As you can see, at best, the cost is like taking an extra person with you. At worst, it’s the cost of a family holiday somewhere warm for a week. It might be worth noting however, that depending on your chosen airline (see article Luggage costs – weighing you down?), the same fictional family could well incur an extra £140 worth of extra baggage costs – even if they carried their own things.

Even so, despite it being a convenient concept, the practicalities of baggage couriering mean that I’d prefer to save the cash and take my own luggage with me on an extra holiday that year.

All prices correct as at 3 March 2008

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