Disney prepares to ramp up its popular airport-shuttle service

A little more than two years after its launch, Walt Disney World's first-of-its-kind, free airport shuttle has proved wildly popular with customers, ferrying 150,000 tourists a month between Orlando International Airport and hotels within the sprawling...

Travelers on a late-afternoon flight, for instance, are more likely to spend their final morning in a Disney theme park if they don't have to worry about storing their luggage for the day or getting to the airport early enough to trudge through check-in lines in the terminal.

The baggage option also allows Disney to control more of their customers' vacations.

"That's so big with them, to have [guests] . . . under Disney's care the whole way," said Jerry Aldrich, president of Orlando-based Amusement Industry Consulting. "Because they feel their care is better. And if you get a better experience, your chances are better of coming back."

Disney officials acknowledge the baggage service's boost to their bottom line. But they point out that the airport also benefits when more people use the service, because it means fewer people standing in line at ticket counters and less luggage clogging conveyor belts in OIA's main terminal.

Even now, Disney is handling about 5,000 bags a day. That's luggage that gets processed inside a hangar that Disney subleases from Delta Air Lines, instead of inside the main terminal.

As Disney handles more of its own luggage, it will free up more terminal capacity for non-Disney travelers, said Chris Schmidt, a deputy executive director at OIA.

"We're as anxious as Disney is to increase that," he said.

CONTACT: Jason Garcia can be reached at jrgarcia@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5414.

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