- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

An Orlando company has started a service that lets air travelers bypass long check-in lines at the airport.

Baggage Airline Guest Services Inc. (BAGS) debuted last week, allowing airline passengers to get a boarding pass and check luggage at their hotel.

So far, the service is only available at the Rosen Centre, a 1,334-room hotel about 12 minutes from Orlando International Airport.

Within the next 30 to 45 days, BAGS will set up shop at the Orange County Convention Center and the Rosen Plaza, an 800-room hotel nearby.

But the concept could go nationwide —including the Washington and Baltimore area — and expand to major hotel chains, other convention centers and office buildings, says BAGS President Craig Mateer.

Mr. Mateer says the concept is simple and similar to skycap, the curbside baggage and check-in service at airports.

“We just picked it up and placed it down in a hotel,” he said.

For $10, passengers flying American, Continental, Delta Airlines and Song, Delta’s low-fare service, can receive their boarding pass and check their bags up to 12 hours before their flight. The bags are then secured by trained BAGS employees and transported to the airport, where they are screened before being put on the plane.

BAGS eliminates some of the hassles of lengthy airport lines, but passengers often still face long lines at security checkpoints.

Arinc Inc., an Annapolis company, provides the network and hardware to power the remote check-in workstations.

The off-site check-in desks consist of BAGS employees, a computer and two printers — one to print boarding passes and another to print the bag tags, said John Dungan, senior product manager at Arinc.

The company, which has worked with airports and airlines for years, links with the airline’s system to give BAGS access.

“Arinc is critical to making this process work,” Mr. Mateer said. “It’s the guts that makes this run — giving us a secure ability to communicate [with the airlines].”

Arinc provides a check-in application that appears on a single screen displaying all the participating airlines, as well as a secure Internet link to connect BAGS check-in desks to Arinc’s global network.

“We’ve made it so [BAGS] can go anywhere and expand it,” Mr. Dungan said.

The remote passenger check-in concept originated several years ago from Mr. Mateer and Harris Rosen, president of Rosen Hotels & Resorts.

The BAGS service, which had to be approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), is welcome news for an industry still reeling from September 11, continued terror threats and a lagging economy.

“This is something to make it easier to travel while maintaining security,” said John Gay, vice president for government affairs at the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “[The hotel industry] is still hurting so this is definitely something else we can offer [to guests].”

“Hotels that have BAGS have an amenity,” Mr. Rosen said. “Clearly anything we can do to make our guests’ lives easier is a benefit to us.”

Mr. Rosen said BAGS has handled as many as 70 to 80 bags a day since the service started earlier this month. Anyone can use the service, but for now just hotel guests are taking advantage of it, Mr. Mateer said.

While BAGS has four participating air carriers at the Rosen Centre, Mr. Mateer says BAGS will soon service United Airlines as well.

The company is also negotiating with major hotel chains and is trying to add more airlines.

“We have the basic foundation in place,” Mr. Mateer said. “We expect to grow very quickly.”

Mr. Rosen, who has no equity in BAGS, said the service will eventually be in all six of his properties in Orlando, as well as another resort being built near the convention center.

“BAGS is too good for us to pass up,” he said.

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