Remote Bag Drop: Build Better Parking Experience at Denver International Airport

June 21, 2022
Remote baggage drop allows travelers to obtain boarding passes and check luggage before entering the terminal. .
Remote baggage drop allows travelers to obtain boarding passes and check luggage before entering the terminal.

When Denver International Airport (DEN) looked at ways to entice more travelers to use its remote parking facilities, airport leaders looked at methods to enhance the passenger experience as soon as they enter the lots.

DEN decided to implement remote luggage drop with Baggage Airline Guest Services, Inc. (Bags) at its Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert parking lots to enhance the travel journey for passengers who wish to unload their bags immediately after they park.

“When people arrive in economy, sometimes the journey is a bit clunky with too many bags to carry onto the parking shuttle bus to the main airport terminal,” said Pamela Dechant, Senior Vice President of Concessions for DEN. “We asked what can we do to enhance the passenger experience and make travel more convenient and pleasurable for our guests?”

Remote baggage drop allows travelers to obtain boarding passes and check luggage before entering the terminal. This permits travelers to skip the ticket counters and find their way to the gate with less concern about wait times and processes.

Bags check-in stations are placed in parking lots or structures, consolidated rental car facilities or multimodal facilities to ensure travelers are through the check-in process before they enter high traffic areas of the airport property.

DEN first implemented a Bags station at its transit center, which allows travelers coming to the airport via train the ability to free themselves of luggage before entering the terminal. That positive experience influenced the airport’s decision to utilize Bags in remote parking.

“It shaved so much time off our guests’ journey having that at the train center that we thought this is really something that works for us and our guests, so now is the time to expand,” Dechant said. 

Bob Miles, President of Bags, explained how travelers at DEN enter through the gate at a remote lot, stay in their car, roll down their window and are greeted by a staff member who scans their boarding pass. The passenger then opens the trunk of their car for Bags staff to collect and weigh the luggage before collecting the airline baggage fee and transporting the luggage to the terminal for the traveler.

“I was there the first day and it was kind of magical to see people at 5 a.m., including seniors who were relieved to be able to stay in their car and get rid of their luggage and go; families with young kids still asleep in their car seats were able to do this whole check-in process without having to drag their luggage onto the buses or stand in ticket counter lines,” he said. “They were able to head directly to the TSA line.” 

Bags staff wear professional uniforms and have a facility at the lots in DEN to assist travelers with remote check-in for flights. Miles said they only need electricity and Wi-Fi to start operations.

“It’s a laptop and printer for IATA bag tags,” he said. “As long as we have electricity, we can even use a Mi-Fi system for connectivity.”

An Enhanced Passenger Experience

Brad McAllister, Director of Business Development-Airports for SP+, said airports around the world have implemented remote bag drop technology. It’s a newer concept for airports in the U.S. that’s growing in popularity.

“We see it as a real gamechanger for airports in the U.S. and a real gamechanger from an airport technology, innovation and passenger satisfaction standpoint that will become a standard and an expectation from passengers as we go into the future,” he said

Miles said a study conducted just prior to the pandemic found 89% of DEN customers were more satisfied using the Bags system compared to traditional counter or skycap services and 99% intended to use the service again. Travel time to the TSA security checkpoint was reduced by 15% and users spent 34% more in concession spending.

“The airlines, airports and customers all benefit from this service,” Miles said. “Bags redirects the luggage from the airline’s ticket counter and eases the baggage handling system for the airport. The customers love the convenience of dropping their bags at an entry point ─be it a parking garage, parking lot, multimodal facility or consolidated rental car facility and traveling luggage-free to the airport terminal.”

Bags currently provides baggage services for United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines and Alaska Airlines. It’s also the only company of its kind currently permitted by TSA to handle baggage in this capacity.  

The concept for the Bags system was born from the cruise industry where thousands of passengers would disembark at one time with luggage. Airports in major cruise ports, such as Seattle, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, all utilize the Bags system.

Under all current agreements with Bags, the airport pays 100% of the cost for the service. Passengers are still responsible for the airline bag fees. However, Miles said market research has shown a willingness from travelers to accept a $3-$5 per bag fee for the service, which could subsidize part of the cost for airports.

“You don’t want to price us so high that no one wants to use us. No one really benefits from that,” he said. “We want the airports and the airlines to have the benefit of taking that luggage off the ticket counter.”

Tampa Continues to See Success

Tampa International Airport (TPA) brought Bags into its rental car center in 2018 to alleviate the need for customers to carry bags on the airport SkyConnect train and then stand in line at the ticket counter to check luggage. 

John Tiliacos, Executive Vice President of Airport Operations & Customer Service at TPA, said a competitive RFP was placed for these services. Bags was chosen because of its propriety software program and significant footprint around the country for remote bag check services. 

“This enhancement was driven first to improve the guest experience but there are indeed operational benefits, too,” Tiliacos said. “By affording guests the ability to part ways with their checked baggage after returning their vehicle, the remote baggage check reduces baggage on our SkyConnect train system, drives fewer lines at ticket counters, expedites guests straight to security and affords more time for passengers to enjoy our world class facility and experience our shops and restaurants.”

A remote bag check service was contemplated during the design of TPA’s rental car facility before it was built. Leaders planned for and built ticket counters, kiosks and a baggage belt to connect the counters to a baggage make-up area where bags could be loaded into vehicles for transport to the terminal.

“The most important benefit was providing an enhanced service to our guests,” Tiliacos said. “Like anything new, we had to make small adjustments - perhaps one of the biggest challenges we had was that we needed more kiosks because the service became so popular so quickly.” 

Bags checked more than 2,000 luggage items per day at TPA prior to the pandemic. It still handles 1,000-1,500 items per day today and continues to grow as air traffic recovers. 

“The popularity of the service was perhaps one of the biggest challenges, but we’ve got a great team who made the necessary improvements to the way the service operates to maximize service availability for any eligible guest,” Tiliacos said.

Success Builds More Service

Tiliacos said TPA routinely assesses opportunities to expand this service and is always on the lookout for ways to expand a service like this in the right way, at the right time, in the most thoughtful way possible. 

But he assures other airports that if you bring the service to your airport, the customers will come.

“Providing these types of services to passengers has tremendous guest experience benefits as well as operational benefits,” he said. “Thoughtful decentralization of the check-in process is a critical benefit to guests and to airports, especially as we see customer demand roaring back.” 

Dechant said DEN is looking at ways it could expand Bags service in the future because of its success. She recommends airports looking for remote baggage drop providers choose a partner whose dedication to the guest experience is the top priority, don’t be afraid to take risks and choose a system that leaves room for growth and innovation. 

“Come up with a robust messaging and marketing plan when setting up a system,” she recommends. “Stay focused on what’s right in front of you but leave room for growth in whatever it looks like. Always be thinking about the next phase.” 

About the Author

Joe Petrie | Editor & Chief

Joe Petrie is the Editorial Director for the Endeavor Aviation Group.

Joe has spent the past 15 years writing about the most cutting-edge topics related to transportation and policy in a variety of sectors with an emphasis on transportation issues for the past 10 years.

Contact: Joe Petrie

Editor & Chief | Airport Business

[email protected]


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