Checked Luggage at the Airport: Two Questions

How early (with regard to the scheduled flight time) can checked luggage be checked in? Three hours? Six hours? A month?

Second, can anyone other than the passenger check in baggage?

I’ve thought of a great idea for a business: an advance luggage-delivery service. You call the number, and the day before your flight a courier comes to your home and picks up your family’s luggage, takes it to the airport, and checks it for you. That way, when you go to the airport, you don’t have to worry about loading up your car, toting your luggage through the airport, etc.

Conversely, a luggage-retrieval service on the ground. You call the number, give your flight times etc., a courier goes to the airport and picks up your luggage and delivers it to your hotel (or back to your home).

Well, I’ve had the luggage retrieval a few times when my luggage didn’t make my flight (lost luggage). Each time, within 24 hours I had my bags brought to me. I live about 60 miles from the airport.

For Delta, you can theoretically check your bags in six hours before the flight. In the real world, most airlines won’t let you check anything in until the ticket desk is open - around three hours before the flight.

In order to check luggage in, you need some sort of ID. The airline needs to know you are before it sticks on the luggage tags. And what happens if your flight is cancelled after your luggage has been picked up? And what happens when the courier has 10 identical suitcases from 10 clients? One of them will be mislabeled and will end up in Hong Kong by mistake, with no way of getting home.

The luggage retrieval service won’t work for international flights, but is logically possible for internal ones. It’s going to more than a little difficult though. How is the courier going to recognize the bags? They have tags on them, so the easiest thing is for him to wait until all the bags are off and read the labels of the stuff that’s left. That takes time and hence money. And what happens when a piece of luggage goes missing. The courier won’t be able to describe it to the lost luggage guys.

I don’t think your idea will fly.

FYI, the business idea described in the OP exists in some places. I know that if you stay in a Disney World resort or hotel, they will pick up your luggage from the hotel for you, and then you can take one of their free shuttle buses to the airport. I think a similar thing exists in Las Vegas at some hotels.

Doesn’t this present some issue on international flights when they ask you “Has the baggage been out of your sight since packing?”

Even so, I have used the baggage check from Disney, so maybe not?

Sounds like Airport Bags Plus.

I’ve never used the Disney Magical Express service (that’s what it’s called), but from descriptions I’ve read it looks as if you make the arrangements in advance and then check you luggage at your departure city (in my case it would be St. Louis) and then don’t think about it again until I get to my room and it’s there waiting for me a couple of hours after check-in. Upon leaving, you can check your bags at your hotel’s front desk on your day of departure and then not worry about them again until your flight home is on the ground. Reviews have been mixed, but generally positive.

Maybe len can provide some more details.

In Switzerland, you can (or used to able to when it was still Swissair) deposit your bag at the nearest train station the day before and not see it till you arrive at your destination anywhere in the world. And at least at some airports you could get special luggage tags before departure, check them in in the usual way and pick them up at the nearest train station. The cost was SFR 20 per bag the last time I used this (in 2000). The Swiss never worried about customs inspection anyway, so this actually worked. You still had to claim nothing to declare, but this amounted only to go through a green door instead of a red one at destination.

That wasn’t door to door, but flying internally in Japan, I was able to arrange a pick-up service at the hotel (or, rather, the hotel could) and have it delivered at destination for the incredibly low price of JPY 700 (about $7) per bag. This was door to door.

How about a way to get around the collecting bags/rechecking when returning on an international flight?

When I return to Pittsburgh from St Martin, we fly into an airport in N/S Carolina, pick up our bags, go through customs, recheck luggage, then rush for our connecting flight. Ugh.

Both your questions have a general and a specific answer


  1. When the check in counter opens 1-4 hours before a flight. Heathrow at least allows First or Business class passengers to check in at the First class desk before that, but why would you do it? First class is to AVOID hassel.

  2. Generally no. You are asked if you packed the bags and if they have been out of your sight if since. If you some else has and they have, they will be check at the very least.

  3. There are a few services which are licenced to do so. Depends on the city. My own experience, a couple of hotels in London have a service and so did one in Dubai. Bloody expensive. The service seems mostly designed around giving you a free day in the city, you can check out of the hotel in the morning and have an evening flight. Go about your business without dragging luggage.

  4. Yes. Someone else will have to have to talk about the requirements, but there are services and I have used them.

They have not asked this question for years in the US and I was never asked that question in other countries.

I have been asked several times. God, I must look untrustworthy.

I’ve been asked this every time I’ve flown in recent years, including three weks ago when I flew from the US to the UK.

I was asked no less than 4 times when connecting through JFK at the end of July. I’ve also been asked in Montreal, Berlin, London (Heathrow and Stanstead) and Toronto within the past couple of years.

Your experience is not universal.

That’s funny, I’m with gazpacho: I haven’t been asked this question in quite a while, and just in the last few months I’ve flown through Amsterdam, Calgary, San Francisco, and New York - Kennedy, among other airports.

There’s a difference between “it has not happened to me” and “they haven’t asked that question in years.” If you’ve never been asked, fair enough. But it’s rather easy to prove that the latter statement is false.

FWIW, at Heathrow they had someone going up and down the lines before check-in, asking exactly this question of each and every person in line. It was a Delta employee, so perhaps it’s an airline specific thing - though I’ve flown Delta, Air Canada/United (AC flight, Utd codeshare), American Airways, British Airways and RyanAir, so at the least, a lot of airlines are asking it, of at least some, if not all passengers.

The question does get asked.

I usually ask at check-out if I can leave the bags with them for the day and come pick them up before I actually go to the airport in the evening. Never had any problems with that arrangement, and I’ve never been charged anything either.

Same experience here, when staying at full service hotels I’m able to store the bags at the Bell Desk for the afternoon w/o spending more than the regular tips. Level of security tends to vary, however. That’s of course different from the advance-bag-check service, which means you don’t even have to bother returning to pick up your luggage.

I wonder if the hotel had a special deal with the delivery company.

There is an established company in Japan that specializes in shipping luggage to and from airports, called ABC, but it’s mainly geared for Japanese people travelling abroad. They pick up your luggage from your home 2 days or more before the flight. When you get to the airport, you pick up the luggage from the ABC counter and take it to the airline check-in counter. When you return to Japan, you can drop it off at the ABC counter to have it shipped home. Price starts around JPY 1500 for one-way shipping.

For companies that provide this service, what happens if the person whose baggage it is in accused of carrying drugs?