A new luggage courier service backed by some well known industry figures is promising to allow agents to beat the lowcost carriers by undercutting their own fares.
Luggage Mule is the latest firm to offer customers the chance to send their bags separately to their holiday destination and so avoid spiralling baggage fees levied by airlines.
It intends to sell 90% through online and high street agents as well as homeworkers and call centres.
Among the backers are Ian Brooks, Pure Genie managing director and Antony Martin, director of Rock Insurance. Jordan Makin, a shareholder, has joined from Training for Travel as director.
The company said its complex technology would be key part of its success. It has set up the technology to embed booking within online travel agencies' existing systems to make Luggage Mule part of the booking process. Both inbound and outbound trips can be made in a single booking.
The option will appear directly below the airline's luggage booking details.
Luggage Mule has had to configure six APs with UPS for the service to work as well as broker a specific agreement to carry aerosols and other liquids in freight.
Although the agreement to use UPS is not exclusive Martin believes the barrier to entry into this market is high due to the complexity of the technology that sits behind it.
“At the front end for the consumer this is incredibly simple, just one click to buy, but behind the scenes it is incredibly complex. That’s a huge barrier to entry,” he said.
The firm is targeting carrying one million bags within three years, 13% of the passenger numbers carried by leading budget carriers Ryanair and easyJet, to the destinations it covers.
Martin said Luggage Mule has been established to tap into the pent up frustration holidaymakers feel towards budget carriers and their policy on bags.
He conceded the service is not for everyone because bags must be ready to be collected up to four days before the first day of the holiday.
But he expects agents will grab the opportunity to get one over Ryanair and earn money when selling their seats. “The trade hates Ryanair because they are aggressively anti-trade,” he said.
“They charge more per kilo for bags then they do human beings and probably give the luggage a better service. It’s not great for the consumer.
“By using Luggage Mule an agent can sell a Ryanair seatsfor £50 cheaper than the consumer can by them directly from Ryanair. That’s powerful for travel agents."
However, Ryanair responded to the news by saying agents could display its lowest fares only “subject to a licence agreement and the payment of a €100 donation to charity”.
The carrier told Travolution: “Less than 20% of Ryanair passengers check in a bag and they don’t have to wait for their bag or golf clubs to arrive by courier when they reach their destination.”
It added: “Ryanair permits third-party websites to display our lowest fares for price comparison purposes only, subject to a licence agreement and the payment to charity.”
The carrier said the CAPTCHA security system on Ryanair.com was designed to protect “against unauthorised screen-scraper websites and ensure customers find the lowest fares only at Ryanair.com”.
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