Eliminate ‘the schlep’ for Aspen travelers?
June 1, 2011
ASPEN – Aspen travelers could find their luggage waiting for them at their hotel room under a system that a prospective business at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport pitched to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors on Tuesday.
Signature Flight Support is interested in becoming the second fixed-base operator at the local airport, joining Atlantic Aviation in providing aircraft mechanical services and fuel.
Sister company to Signature Flight Support is Aircraft Service International Group, or ASIG, which could initiate the baggage service in an arrangement with local hotels and lodges, according to Eric Hietala, western region vice president for Signature and a member of the local airport master plan study committee.
Hietala was looking for some initial feedback from the ACRA board, after describing how ASIG operates a similar service in Orlando, Fla., for resort properties he said he could not name (hint: think mouse ears), involving both airline and cruise ship travelers.
The operation would involve a separate, baggage-handling warehouse at the Aspen airport and could eliminate the need for increased baggage capacity within the terminal building, he said.
In short, travelers would arrange in advance for a special tag for their bags. The luggage would be dropped off at an airport at the start of their trip, but when they arrive in Aspen, they could head straight to their accommodations and find the luggage waiting there for them.
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“The bag simply shows up in their guest room. They don’t have to claim it at the airport,” Hietala said.
On the return trip, the luggage can be sent ahead to the airport, allowing travelers to linger longer in Aspen. They pick it up at baggage claim when they get to their home airport.
Sealed cages are used to transport luggage between the airport and hotels in an arrangement that has the Transportation Security Administration’s approval in Florida, he said.
Hietala estimated a cost of $2 per bag to provide the service, depending on traveler volume and participating hotels. It would probably be offered only during the peak winter and summer seasons, he suggested.
“Are there enough properties that are interested? There needs to be that critical mass,” he said.
Lodging representatives on the ACRA board were intrigued.
Free bus service between Aspen and the airport could be more appealing if a traveler wasn’t faced with the prospect of hauling their bags on a bus, noted Warren Klug, general manager of the Aspen Square Condo Hotel.
“I like the idea,” said Donny Lee, general manager at The Gant.
The amount of luggage brought by guests can be “extreme,” he said, questioning whether The Gant, a condo complex, has room to store the cages. John Speers, general manager at The Little Nell hotel, voiced a similar concern.
“We have people who send pallets of bags,” he said.
Some guests opt to ship their luggage from their home to The Little Nell, and then home again, Speers added.
Making room for the envisioned baggage facility is a matter of setting aside the space as part of the airport’s master plan, currently in the development stage, said Michael Owsley, a Pitkin County commissioner and ACRA board member.
“In my opinion, the biggest impediment to traveling on a ski vacation is the schlep,” he said. “If you get rid of that, all of a sudden it’s the same as just having your bathing suit, so why not do it?”
Community support for a second fixed-base operator at the airport has emerged from airport master plan discussions, but no decisions have been made and the selection of such a business would involve a separate process.