Denver Int’l Expands Bag Drop Options With Valet Service at Remote Parking Lots

Denver Int’l Expands Bag Drop Options With Valet Service at Remote Parking Lots
Author: 
Thomas J. Smith
Published in: 
May-June
2019

As a follow-up to its popular transit station bag drop, Denver International Airport (DEN) debuted free luggage drops at two remote parking lots in November. The new sites up the ante with valet-style service. 

Earlier this year, the parking lot bag drops were handling about 3,500 pieces of luggage per month.

While a few other U.S. airports offer various forms of remote luggage drop off, DEN is the first with free valet service.

Drivers parking in the airport’s Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert shuttle lots don’t even have to leave their vehicles to use the service. Attendants armed with iPads check them in, print their boarding passes, tag their checked bags and take the process from there. After parking, passengers simply catch a shuttle bus to the terminal, unencumbered by checked baggage. 

Third-Party Operator

facts&figures

Project: New Remote Check-in/Bag Drop

Location: Denver Int’l Airport

Drop Spots: 2 remote parking lots served by shuttle buses

Point of Difference: Free valet-style service

Volume: 3,500 bags/month

Current Airline Participants: American; Delta; Southwest; United Airlines

Service Debut: Nov. 2018 

Service Provider: Bags Inc.

Cost: No charge for passengers; airport pays per bag fee

Est. First-Year Costs: $300,000

Key Benefits: Enhanced customer service; decreased congestion at check-in counters in terminal

DEN contracts Florida-based Bags Inc. to provide the service. Company employees greet drivers, check them in and place their tagged baggage in secured vans, which deliver it to the airport for screening. “Their bags will meet them at their destination,” explains Herald Hensley, DEN’s acting senior vice president for parking and transportation service.

There are a few restrictions. Passengers need to arrive at the parking lot 90 minutes prior to their departure times, and the service is limited to domestic flights on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. 

“This is a gift to our mutual customers,” Hensley explains, noting that the airport does not charge passengers or airlines for the valet service. “It very much fits with what we are trying to do here at the airport—make it easier to fly.”

The new service is largely aimed at families, who tend to be the largest users of DEN’s shuttle lots. “We felt this would be a real amenity for them,” notes Hensley. Customers who use the new bag drops don’t have to juggle suitcases, car seats and small children as they make their way onto shuttles and through the terminal. 

The program began in November 2018 as a pilot and has been extended until November 2019. After some initial start-up costs, DEN pays its vendor on a per bag basis. The contract has been valued by DEN at $300,000 for the first year. 

Since service is provided at customers’ vehicles, the new bag drops required little setup or infrastructure investment by the airport. In one lot, space was cleared in an existing building for Bags crews. A trailer serves as their office in the other lot. 

Bags has handled remote luggage drops for cruise lines and resorts for about 25 years. The company was privately held until it was sold last October for $275 million to SP Plus Corp., a national operator of parking facilities and related services.

According to press coverage about the sale, Bags operates in more than 250 cities and delivered more than 5 million checked bags to and from hotels and resorts in 2017.  

The company declined to be interviewed for this story.

Expansion Anticipated

At peak travel times, there are six Bags employees on duty at DEN. Crews rotate between the two shuttle lots, as only one facility is open at a time. The lots hold about 8,700 vehicles each. 

While DEN does not charge airlines for the service, Hensley notes that each carrier spent money to integrate its reservations system with Bags’ computer system. “Bags is working with other airlines to get more airlines involved,” he reports. “We are confident that in the near future, we will be able to add more airlines.”

The new valet bag drops are the second and third locations for DEN passengers. The airport added a drop point in the transit center that opened in 2016 for a new light rail line connection between downtown Denver to the terminal. The center, which is located under the Westin Hotel, also serves as the drop point for parking lot shuttles and public bus service. 

Bags Inc. also operates the remote check-in/bag drop option located on the station platform. As the transit center was being developed, DEN reached out to the company to determine if the site would work for a remote drop off. The airport first tested the concept as a pilot and then put the service out to bid, with Bags winning the contract. Now, the company handles about 9,500 bags per month at the transit center.

The early drop off allows travelers to avoid standing in line inside the terminal, notes Hensley. Passengers using any of the airport’s remote check-in/bag drop locations can go straight to the TSA screening stations.

When DEN was first considering a remote bag drop for the transit center, Hensley traveled to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), an early pioneer in offering the service. At that time, it was very popular, he notes. PHX has since ended its contract
with Bags.

The Early Bag Check Program at PHX ended in November 2017 after a five-year run.  According to the airport, Bags’ bid in August 2017 for a new contract was higher than its previous $1.1 million annual costs. Usage peaked at more than 280,000 bags in 2016 and started declining in 2017. 

At PHX, airlines contributed to 30% of the fee. The service was provided at the consolidated rental car center, the East economy parking lot and the train station, where local public transit connected with the airport.

Subcategory: 
Baggage

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