For some people, curbside check-in is a relic of the past that has somehow been overlooked in airport modernization. However, those of us in the know realize that the convenience and service make it the best little-known perk many travelers aren’t taking advantage of!

Curbside Check-in at Cairo's International Airport, Terminal 3

Curbside Check-in at Cairo’s International Airport, Terminal 3

For example, when I check my Crew 11 25-inch Spinner, I thoroughly enjoy the full-service process. There’s rarely a line deeper than one or two people, the skycaps are always helpful, all I have to do is present my driver’s license and credit card, and in seconds my boarding pass and bag tag are printed and I’m on my way straight to the security checkpoint.

The service can also be used to check bags that have already been accounted for during the online check-in process. Either way, the inside check-in lines are almost always longer, increasing the amount of time it will take you to get through security and to your gate.

(An interesting side note: according to Wikipedia, the skycap service evolved as commercial airline travel became more popular. Travelers were already used to redcaps — the porters who handled luggage on trains — and expected similar service at the airport.)

The demographic of those who utilize the convenience of curbside check-in falls into roughly three categories. 1) People traveling with small children may have carseats and strollers as well as luggage, so curbside allows them to offload all but the essentials for the trek to the gate. 2) People who are in a hurry use curbside as a way to minimize wait times, especially if they’re running late. And 3) people with mobility issues find that only having to maneuver their bags from the car to the skycap — who most likely will help with their bags, if asked — is the best way to navigate the airport.

Granted, there is the issue of the tip, in addition to the airline’s charge to check the bag. Usually it’s a couple dollars per bag. To me, time is money and it’s a small price to pay for what is typically excellent service.

If you’re interested in trying curbside check-in, here is some information from a few of the major airlines:

  • American has curbside at almost 30 airports. The service is free, but tipping is encouraged. You cannot use curbside if you are traveling internationally out of Cincinnati, and some airports only offer this service seasonally.
  • Delta offers complimentary curbside service at 100 locations. It also suggests tipping in appreciation for “outstanding service.”
  • Southwest has skycap service at “a majority” of the airports it serves and does not charge a fee but encourages tipping.
  • United has approximately 40 locations that provide curbside service at no additional cost.

Where do you check your bags? Assuming you don’t follow our recommended “carry-on only” practice, how do you get your bags to their airlines? Leave us a comment below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Roland Unger (Wikimedia Commons, Freedom of Panorama, Article 171 of Egypt’s Intellectual Property Law 82 of 2002)