The wait at the luggage carousel may be over for American Airlines passengers willing to pay a little extra.
Starting this week, fliers can pay to have their bags delivered directly to their office, home or other destination, while they head straight to a sales call or Grandma's house.
The service, which can be purchased when booking the trip or up to two hours before the flight, costs $29.95 to $49.95, depending on the amount of luggage.
The service is available at more than 200 U.S. airports and some cities abroad.
If the bag's destination is 40 miles away or less, it should get there within one to four hours, the airline says. If the address is farther away, delivery will cost a dollar more for every extra mile, and delivery time ranges from four to six hours.
"We think it's a great product for business travelers who need to go into a meeting or office and don't care to claim their luggage," says David Vance, American's managing director-customer operations planning. "But it's also a great service for families traveling with children and they have a number of bags they're having to deal with."
Though United briefly offered a door-to-door baggage program with FedEx, American says it's the only U.S. carrier currently offering such service.
If it proves to be popular, other carriers likely will follow suit. Fees for extras, as well as necessities such as checking a bag, have produced a flood of cash for airlines. "There is probably no industry ... that more quickly copies success than the airline industry," says Jay Sorensen, an airline consultant who's an expert on ancillary fee revenue. "So, yes, if it's successful you will see more.''
American reaped more than $2.1 billion last year from revenue streams beyond basic fares, such as extra fees and its frequent-flier program, according to an analysis by Sorensen.
But while passengers often grumble about having to pay for pillows or a little more legroom, American's luggage-delivery service is an extra that some travelers may embrace.
"Airlines are creating a buffet of services, and, like any buffet, you're going to have main items that are very popular and then you'll have items that ... aren't taken by everyone," Sorensen says. "For a person at a higher income level who desires convenience, this would be an attractive service."
George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, says several third-party companies have offered baggage delivery for years. Now, he says, it "looks like American Airlines wants a piece of the action."
"I think it's brilliant," Hobica says of the service. "Unless they end up losing bags."