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LAX Launches Remote Check-In

Passengers will be able to drop off luggage and get boarding passes at sites throughout the city.

September 09, 2006|Jennifer Oldham | Times Staff Writer

Instead of hauling bags, strollers, skis and other items through long lines at ticket counters to check them on airplanes, LAX passengers will be able to drop off luggage and obtain boarding passes at locations throughout the city, under a program announced Friday.

Officials hope that the program will revolutionize how passengers use Los Angeles International Airport and will eliminate an inconvenience for travelers and decrease the security risk presented by long lines at ticket counters and at skycap stands. Experts have long said travelers in these lines are vulnerable to a luggage or car bomb attack.

"One less bag is one less passenger to be processed in overcrowded lobbies," Larry Fetters, security director at LAX for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, said at a news conference Friday to launch the program.

The remote baggage check-in program began Friday at the Van Nuys FlyAway park-and-ride in the San Fernando Valley. At a counter near the terminal entrance, passengers can check up to two bags and obtain a boarding pass for a $5 per-person fee. They then board a bus for LAX, where they go straight to the security checkpoint.

The service -- to begin at other locations soon -- is the first in the U.S. to combine remote baggage check-in with an airport shuttle service.

"While today's announcement is one small step for improved customer service and security at LAX, it's not hard to imagine that in a few short years, this will be the smart way to travel in L.A.," Lydia Kennard, executive director of the city's airport agency, said.

The service will be launched this month at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Union Station FlyAway and the Port of Los Angeles cruise ship terminal. Officials hope to install remote baggage check-in at airport parking lots, hotels and rental car facilities. They will also incorporate it in new FlyAway facilities being planned throughout Southern California.

"We've made a concerted effort over the last year to address congestion at the airport," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who announced the new service over a loudspeaker at the Van Nuys FlyAway terminal. "You're going to see a lot more in the way of these measures."

Officials plan a marketing blitz, including radio ads, Internet displays and other ventures to promote the service. There's a potentially large market at the Van Nuys FlyAway alone -- up to 90,000 passengers a month use the facility.

If it catches on, the service could give passengers back some of the time they've lost after rigorous screening requirements prompted officials to advise them to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international trip.

Airlines that fly 60% of the domestic travelers at LAX are participating in the service, which is being operated for the city's airport agency by Orlando-based Baggage Airline Guest Services Inc., or BAGS. They are American, American Eagle, Alaska, Continental, Delta, Horizon, Northwest, Ted, United and United Express and SkyWest.

BAGS, which processes more than 10,000 passengers a day in 15 cities, hopes to offer its service to international travelers next year.

The service has caught on quickly since BAGS started offering it in 2003. In Florida, 85% of airline travelers who stay in Disney resorts take advantage of the service, said Craig C. Mateer, president of BAGS.

At LAX, bags collected from travelers at the Van Nuys FlyAway will be stored in a separate part of the bus and then screened once they arrive at the airport. Travelers can use the service from 4:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and must check in 2 1/2 hours before their flights.

Officials hope that more airlines will soon sign up to provide the service to their passengers.

"Once airlines see how successful this is, they'll get on board," said Michael Biagi, director for landside operations at the city's airport agency. "Their travelers will demand it."

jennifer.oldham@latimes.com

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