Aspen seeks an edge by easing airline baggage fees | AspenTimes.com

Aspen seeks an edge by easing airline baggage fees

ASPEN ” Aspen and Snowmass will try to ease the sting of airline baggage fees for its customers this winter.

Aspen Skiing Co. and Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central bookings agency, announced Thursday they negotiated a special deal with United Parcel Service to ship tourists’ luggage to and from Aspen and Snowmass Village lodges at a special rate. It the first resort-specific program of its kind in the ski industry, according to Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich.

The new program is called Aspen-Snowmass Luggage Express. Tomcich said users can save from $50 to $300 or more over other shipping programs depending on the number of bags, their weight and their point of origination. Tourists can also save themselves the hassle of lugging around skiing equipment and winter clothing to the airport.

Customers will have a variety of shipping options, but the preferred alternative is two-day air for inbound bags and ground delivery on outbound luggage. That assures that luggage arrives on time and saves money for the return trip. Stay Aspen Snowmass negotiated a bulk rate with UPS that travelers cannot get on their own. The shipping plans must be made through the Stay Aspen Snowmass website, but it is available to all guests, regardless of whether they booked through the central reservations agency.

Tomcich said the idea for the program was hatched when airlines almost universally implemented baggage fees earlier this year. All three major carriers serving the Aspen airport charge a fee for checked baggage. United Express charges $15 each way for the first checked bag, $25 for the second and $125 for each additional bag, according to Tomcich.

Frontier’s prices are $15, $25 and $50 and Delta tacks on $15, $25 and $100, he said.

“Baggage fees are here to stay,” Tomcich said.

Aspen-bound travelers are notorious for the amount of luggage they bring. Air carriers often have to ship luggage separate between Aspen and Denver to deal with weight issues on planes.

It’s impossible to tell if the fees will have any impact on Aspen’s well-heeled clientele. It’s a small price to pay considering the overall expense of a ski trip.

“Some of them will care a lot about it and some don’t care,” Tomcich said.

But in a year when the travel and leisure business is facing tough times due to the national economic crisis and resulting drop in discretionary spending, any convenience and cost-saving steps that can be offered can help lure business, Tomcich said.

In an example used to compare shipping rates, Tomcich said it would cost $129.41 to send a 50-pound bag from the East Coast to Aspen on two-day air via UPS in the Aspen/Snowmass Luggage Express program. The lowest competing rate for two-day air would be $190.69 on FEDEX direct, his example showed.

United Airlines has a door-to-door shipping program, with overnight delivery only, that would cost $179 in Tomcich’s example.

The Stay Aspen/Snowmass program was unveiled Thursday for lodges, hotels and other tourist accommodations that are members of Stay Aspen Snowmass. Warren Klug, general manager of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel, said in a statement that he thinks the service will prove very popular.

“Many of our guests prefer to ship their bags already and this gives them another option that can save them money and time,” Klug said.

Another manager of a property was withholding judgment on the program. That person, who didn’t want to be identified, said it could create major headaches for properties because of the storage required and extra work for staff if all guests start shipping their luggage in advance. Typically the luggage arrives a couple of days before the guests, while their units are occupied by another party. That requires properties to store the luggage until its owners arrive.

Tomcich acknowledged there is extra work for lodge staffs, but he maintained that the benefits outweigh the hassles.

For more on Stay Aspen/Snowmass Luggage Express go to http://www.stayaspensnowmass.com/luggage or call (800) 679-3146.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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