Can-Do Concession at San Francisco Int’l Comes Through for Customers in a Pinch

Can-Do Concession at San Francisco Int’l Comes Through for Customers in a Pinch
Scott Berman
Published in: 

Major international airports receive countless requests every day from the millions of travelers they serve each year. Many of the requests are routine, but given the sheer number of people involved, there’s no telling what travelers may need.

For example, how about storing a fresh set of moose antlers, urns with ashes of passengers’ loved ones, or 10-foot-tall carved wooden doors from Bali? Perhaps a business traveler desperately needs to have a signature notarized before leaving the country, or new parents need to rent an infant car seat. Those are just a few of the matters Airport Travel Agency at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) handles on a routine basis.

The locally owned business also offers luggage-wrapping services, arranges for couriers to pick up and drop off items and provides business center services such as scanning or printing. On the retail end, it sells greeting cards, stamps, toiletries, diapers and other sundries. Weary travelers can even take a shower or get some much-needed sleep in private rooms.


Location: San Francisco Int’l Airport

Annual Passengers: 47 million

Concessions Tenant: Airport Travel Agency

Key Components: Airport Travel Services (luggage/item storage); LMD Baggage Wrapping; Freshen Up (shower & sleeping lounge)

Employees: 14

Hours of Operation: 6 a.m.-11 p.m. for Airport Travel Services & LMD Baggage Wrapping from; Freshen Up is open 24 hours/day

Pricing Examples: Wrapping services start at $15 for small items; storage for a small suitcase costs $8/hour, $35/hour for golf bag, $40/day for bicycle; small nap room costs $150 for 3 hours, $245 for overnight; 30-minute shower costs $30, including supplies

On average, Airport Travel Agency serves about 200 customers per day, and it operates from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. The store is located before the TSA checkpoint near Concourse G in SFO’s International Terminal.

President and Chief Executive Officer Linard Davis notes that the 14-employee operation is actually three separate units: Airport Travel Services, which stores baggage and unusual items alike; its affiliated business, LMD Baggage Wrapping; and Freshen Up, a shower and sleeping lounge. Together, they are like a Swiss Army knife for passengers from around the world, and often a one-stop shop for SFO employees. As varied as the customers are, they have at least one thing in common: a pressing need for solutions and services.

Not surprisingly, customers are often in a hurry. Intensely so. “We are like a quarterback, figuring out how and where to pass that ball to gain those yards,” explains Davis. “We have to be in position to come up with a solution within about 12 seconds.”

The company’s current array of services and products started in 1987 with Airport Travel Services, which now has six employees. In 2004, Davis founded the baggage wrapping operation, which added three more employees; and in 2008, he added Freshen Up, which has a four-person staff. Another employee roves between the three operations as needed to help respond as customer traffic ebbs and flows.

Uncommon Concession 

Management at SFO is keen on what the long-time concessions tenant brings to the table. “We like the variety of services they offer,” says Principal Property Manager Sam El Gord. In fact, neither he nor Davis is aware of any other concessionaire, at any airport, with such a wide variety of services.

“From an operator perspective, we like successful small businesses growing at the airport,” adds El Gord.

Doug Yakel, SFO’s public information officer, definitely considers Davis one of those success stories. “Promoting small business access and providing opportunities for small business owners to get a foothold in the airport environment is one of our key strategies,” Yakel relates. 

Furthermore, there are 57 concessions tenants at SFO registered under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) program. That’s 42% of all concessions throughout the airport. Of the ACDBEs, 91% have minority ownership and 58% are owned by women.

The Backstory

Airport Travel Agency is a tale of determination and creativity. Davis initially came to SFO as a ticket agent for United Airlines in 1978. He had previously worked at Miami International Airport, in the same job for United, and through the years had encountered countless customer service requests and situations. Often, they were last-minute needs for items travelers forgot at home. In other cases, passengers needed a way to return car or house keys they accidentally brought with them to the airport. Sometimes, it was the simple but urgent need to print travel documents.

Airport Travel Agency was founded in 1987 by Louis Asher and the company’s current vice president, Carol Feiner. Davis liked what the business was doing and joined the company in 1991. “I was a hard-working employee that always had in mind that one day I would own this company,” he remarks, adding that he worked like an owner from the very beginning.

His mindset and work ethic paid off, and Davis purchased 51% of the company in 2004. Drawing on his years of experience serving passengers, he gradually started adding more and more options, such as baggage wrapping, courier delivery, business center services and Freshen Up, among others—”things that I knew people need,” he explains.

As for pricing, baggage wrapping starts at $15 for small items; luggage storage costs $8 per hour or $25 per day for a small suitcase, $35 per hour for a golf bag and $40 to store a bicycle for 24 hours. A small, basic nap room from Freshen Up costs $150 for three hours, or $245 for overnight stays in lieu of a hotel. The price for a 30-minute shower is $30, and includes soap, shampoo, a towel, shower shoes, etc. Military members and SFO employees can shower for half-off. 

Yakel considers the price points in line with industry norms. “This is a business that primarily caters to international travelers,” he explains. “It’s a customer base that sees the value of what he’s providing.”

Yakel and El Gord both note that doing business at SFO, or anywhere in San Francisco, is not cheap. City codes and ordinances stipulate an $18.07 per hour minimum wage, and require most employers to provide health insurance for employees. Despite the extra costs of doing business, Davis happily reports that his companies are holding their own.

The continued success of Airport Travel Agency and other SFO concessions is a marker of the airport’s continued recovery from the massive challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit SFO and its volume-driven tenants hard. Davis’ employees were declared essential workers, and his business stayed open, serving as a beacon of sorts for passengers and staff who were at the airport while the pandemic raged.

Yakel notes that SFO supported all 135 of its concessions tenants by offering a COVID-related rent relief program that began in March 2020 and has so far amounted to $51.5 million. With the pandemic now waning and airport operations getting back to normal, the subsidy program is scheduled to expire in December 2025.

In the 2022/2023 fiscal year, SFO served 47 million passengers, which was 82% of pre-pandemic levels. This past September, nearly 41,500 passengers came through the International Terminal each day, and many encountered Davis’ businesses.

The Beat Goes On

Traffic trends at SFO and other airports are a sign of positive change. And change is something to which Davis is attuned. For example, he reports that there are still plenty of business travelers, but not quite as many as before the pandemic.

In recent months, Davis had noticed an increased number of families traveling with infants as people become more comfortable with international travel after the pandemic. He consequently started renting infant car seats for tourists, and is kicking the tires on other possible new services. “I’m always looking and thinking, trying to come up with different ideas,” he comments.

Whatever changes may come, the multi-service concessions company will continue working to find a way to say “Yes!” to customer requests, no matter how routine or unusual they are. And that means a lot to SFO.

“When we benchmark ourself against other major international airports, one of the things we look at is rich features and amenities—a wide variety of services available for passengers to meet many different needs,” says Yakel. “Linard Davis’ services are very much in this vein.”

In Davis’ view, it’s all about the fundamentals: “What we do is a needed service,” he says. “More airports need to get on board and fill the customers’ needs.”


FREE Whitepaper

PAVIX: Proven Winner for All Airport Concrete Infrastructure

PAVIX: Proven Winner for All Airport Concrete Infrastructure

International Chem-Crete Corporation (ICC) manufactures and sells PAVIX, a unique line of crystalline waterproofing products that penetrate into the surface of cured concrete to fill and seal pores and capillary voids, creating a long lasting protective zone within the concrete substrate.

Once concrete is treated, water is prevented from penetrating through this protective zone and causing associated damage, such as freeze-thaw cracking, reinforcing steel corrosion, chloride ion penetration, and ASR related cracking.

This white paper discusses how the PAVIX CCC100 technology works and its applications.



Featured Video

Featured Video

# # #

# # #