UPS Luggage Box Tries to Compete with Airline Checked Bags (Not Quite There Yet)


Everyone loves to complain about luggage fees, but other than flying Southwest or JetBlue, there hasn’t really been a way to avoid them that makes economic sense. I mean, sure, you could FedEx your suitcase, but that ain’t cheap. UPS has apparently been watching luggage fees rise and now has its Luggage Box to try to steal some of the market for luggage shipping. It’s got a ways to go, but I suppose this is a step in that direction.

The luggage box is absolutely not revolutionary in any way. There are no special rates for transport at all. It’s just this:

UPS Luggage Box

So who cares? Well, it’s all about weight. UPS charges you by the pound to ship things, and this weighs a lot less than your usual suitcase. In fact, they say it can save about 7 pounds on average. The big one is 26″ x 16″ x 12″ and has a suggested retail of just under $18. Of course, you can use it multiple times, so that cost is nothing.

If I need to ship 50 pounds over to my in-laws in Indiana, it’ll cost $55.85 for this box. It it was only 43 pounds (minus the 7 pounds the extra luggage weighs), then it’s $49.08. Getting it under $50 makes it more attractive for sure.

There is one enormous problem. This is sent via UPS Ground. So you need to send it days in advance of your arrival. If you’re going from LA to Minnesota in winter, that won’t be a problem. You don’t exactly need your winter clothes here in SoCal, but in general you need your stuff. So I’m not quite sure how they’re going to get over that hump. That same $49 shipment costs $113 to do it in 3 days, $193 to do it in 2 days, and $224 to do next day. That’s not competitive at all.

Besides, the airlines are charging you $25 for the first bag or $35 for the second, in general. So you have to pay a premium for it take the better part of a week to get to your destination. At least you don’t have to lug that bag around with you, but I personally can’t imagine paying more for it to take that long. It’s just not likely to work out.

Now, if you need to check more than two bags, this starts to get much more interesting. That third bag will cost you over $100 and the fourth one can be $200. In those cases, shipping becomes a no-brainer. Besides, if you have to check that much stuff, you would have to be able to part with at least one or two of the suitcases for a few days.

So, UPS has done a good job of trying to make this more attractive, but I would be surprised if it ended up getting much new business for them. It’s more of a gimmick than anything else. Still, if airlines keep raising fees, this will become more and more attractive.

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40 comments on “UPS Luggage Box Tries to Compete with Airline Checked Bags (Not Quite There Yet)

  1. Delta SkyMiles AMEX cardholders now get their first bag free for everyone in their traveling party. On a recent trip it more than paid for the $95 annual fee. Sure seems an easier option than $18 cardboard boxes.

  2. Ok Brett go to the post office web site and put in that UPS box size you listed and 50lbs as the weight and your zip code and your in-laws zip code and tell us how much the post office would charge for the same thing. That would be a good comparison as the post office should be less to mail things.

    Sometime in the 90’s I mailed a good size box with christmas presents from Los Angeles to the bay area and UPS was about $21 at that time.

    1. No way. USPS is worse. If you happen to be sending media, you can send it for $21.49 but I can’t imagine that’s going to be the case for most people checking bags.

      Regular Parcel Post is $44.46 but that doesn’t include tracking at all and it takes 7 days. You also have to go to the Post Office to send it.

      Priority Mail is $76.05. So the post office is not the way to go here.

      1. Very interesting Brett, you would think USPS would be lower, maybe they are for smaller/ lesser weight items, but larger/heavier not so much.

        Will baggage fees going up, I wonder how long it will before someones figures out they can just buy new clothes at their destination for less then paying the bag fees……lol

      2. You can’t compare USPS Priority Mail to UPS Ground. Priority Mail takes 2-3 days. So compare that to UPS’ 2- and 3-day service which is $113-193 based on the information you gave. So $76.05 is quite a bit cheaper…and the post office might be the way to go here.

  3. They should open up Luggage Pick Up Kiosks at airports. That way, the customer could then drop their “bags” at any UPS Store but only pick them up at an airport. This would enable UPS to price discriminate the “luggage” traffic vs. regular shipping traffic, and thus provide a faster, more price competitive alternative.

    Not certain how expensive it is to get airport kiosks, though…

  4. Doesn’t this baggage “mess” (my word) signal the end of airline service as we know it. Aren’t we at a point in history where the whole commercial air travel system needs complete restructuring, as we did building the interstate highway system, and man on the moon project.

    Individual airline brands are just about dead. It’s all about alliances. Maybe a couple of independents, but the whole system needs complete integration from the moment you get close to the airport until you get on your plane, and then again once you get off your plane.

    Every major and mid-sized airport, funded with taxes and user fees, needs to be completely reconfigured to reflect what the airline business is. Nothing related to individual airlines, but everything to facilitate people into, through, and out of the airport. Single receiving points for people bringing their cars to the ariport (the airport takes your car and parks it); separate points each for taxis, rail service, and personal drop-offs. Even a separate short runway to handle the people, EAS and others, coming from the little airports ( the “small people,” you know). Each receiving place would have a single collection point for your bags and they would send it off to a sorting place for delivery to your plane. Nothing for you to deal with individual airlines, so the airlines would have nothing directly to do or say about pricing bags. You, the passenger would then, without those messy bags, get shipped to the departure lounge area, which would be a single large shopping mall and a place for you place any of your onboard food needs, and for pillow/blanket orders, whatever. The food or other contractor would see that everthing got delivered to your plane. And then, you would get transported directly to your plane, parked out there somewhere. Not at a gate, because gates are too expensive and too inflexible.

    The big change is that you would deal with the airport contractor(s), not the airline(s), for check-in, baggage handling, food service, and everything else, except operating the plane.

    Worrying about how to save money shipping your bags is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Enough already! Can we get this done by, oh, Labor Day?

      1. Just me, but I’ve been driving to IAD and flying out and back on UA since just about the day the airport was built. Luv the beautiful terminal, but just about everything I use, and seeing everything else there I don’t use, seems like a total, uncoordinated, gigantic mess, whose cost I believe is far, far about what I think it should be.

        I believe we need our air travel system as much as we need an interstate highway system. But, aren’t we reaching a point where neither the airlines, the airports, nor us taxpayers can afford this uncoordinated monstrosity. Is there any hope that business, government, and us taxpayers can do something to get us to think long-range and fix this?

        1. I’ven’t been by IAD, but many airports seem to be reasonably laid out and there is a reasonable amount of cooperation at the airports with the airlines, and the airlines themselves seem to coordinate with each other reasonably well as well..

          Airlines drive a lot of efficiencies, which mean they push their vendors (the airports) to be efficient. If anything they all should gang up on the FAA to get their stuff together. There are huge inefficiencies once the planes leave the ground, that the airlines have little to no control over.

  5. To clarify, this being done by the UPS _store_ which is already in the business of selling boxes. So it’s just a new box they’re selling. Although it does bring up the idea that there is need for innovation in the luggage space. Both on the airline’s part and the bag maker’s part.

  6. I am not sure why anyone would do this, except out of spite towards the airlines and their fees. You can pay $50 to check 50lbs of bags with any airline and have it right there when you arrive. If anything, it just confirms why airlines are charging the fees, “hey, look if you shipped this same bag on UPS, it would cost $50, we will do it for $25 and make it quicker.”


    1. I just wanted to send one back home and keep on traveling. Looks like it ended up costing me over $300 on UPS. This was a small bag at about 20 lbs, but it was coming from Italy.

  7. This is eerily like what happened to air freight. The airline begins to slowly drive business away to Fedex and UPS, and then they wonder why they’re losing money in a couple years like never before… Especially now when you fly a regional jet on popular routes like ORD-CLT or ORD-YYZ, you can hold ZERO freight and eliminate that revenue source. Now we’re seeing the same thing happen with baggage and it’s sickening to watch this struggling industry shoot itself in the foot again. >:(

    1. From PHILL: “””””…’s sickening to watch this struggling industry shoot itself in the foot again”””””

      I’ve said for years, that the airlines are their own worst enemy……lol

      1. And now american airlines and expedia can’t agree on a price, so american airlines decided not to seel through expedia or expedia ousted them, whatever. The funny point is the american airlines exec was quoted as saying people can just as easily get their tickets at the amercan airlines website.

        1. Having someone in a decision making capacity at an airline who is that clueless about the web is a bad thing.

        2. If people WERE buying their tickets at the american airlines and other airline sites, then expedia wouldn’t exist at all. So telling the media that people can just as easily get them there is ludicrous. People are not going to change their habits just because american airlines is too stubborn to deal with a portal that exists BECAUSE airlines don’t see tickets onlne as well as expedia and others.

        Just never ceases to amaze me how execs of major companies can be so clueless and still get that job.

        1. The folks at American Airlines behind this move are hardly clueless. Devious, perhaps, but far from clueless. They already know people aren’t buying tickets on the AA site. They also know that most people are comfortable using the Web to shop airfares on multiple airlines at once.

          AA wants to change all that. They want you coming to their site and ONLY their site. They want to control the fare info you see and how you see it. And they’re not alone. Southwest, which the flying public still largely adores, is already doing the same thing, and more will follow.

          It’s all about control of information. In pre-Internet days, the airlines had it. Now, they want it back.

          1. They’re not wantin to change individual behavior just the stuff behind the scenes. Currently Orbitz and Expedia sell their tickets for American through a GDS which also takes a cut. American wants to sell the tickets directly through the online travel agents. Orbitz is owned by a GDS so they’ve got their reasons to not sell directly, but I think Expedia is really holding out because they don’t wan to program an interface per airline and/or piss of the GDSs which they’d need for the rest of the airlines.

            Oh and why are we having this discussion on a post about UPS’s luggage box?

          2. Hey Nicholas, you said “Oh and why are we having this discussion on a post about UPS’s luggage box?”

            My question, Oh and why are you commenting if you believe the comment has no place on a post about UPS’s luggage box?

  8. I’ve always thought that most of the “trend” stories about people mailing luggage hither and yon were bogus. For most (if not all) people, shipping luggage is neither a cost saver, nor is it more reliable. I don’t think airline luggage loss rates are any higher than the loss rate for mailed packages.

  9. If you can be without the stuff that long you might as well just send it parcel post. I was in the service and we used to mail durable stuff like books from post to post all the time.

  10. This is a special product for people with special needs.

    You’re sending your 86 year old aunt to spend three weeks with her 84 year old sister in Boise. Drop her stuff off at the UPS store a few days before the trip and it’s at Sis’s house when she gets there.

    Bride and groom are honeymooning in Hawaii for a week. They plan to be a little busy the day before departure and like to dress up for dinner. Deliver their designer clothes to UPS a week before the wedding, stop worrying about getting packed and everything is in their room upon arrival. And they’re already spending tens of thousands on the reception.

    You’re flying to Dallas to put up a trade show booth, do a week of booth duty, take customers to dinner and then take everything apart and ship it to the warehouse. Send all your suits, shirts, shoes and work clothes in advance so you can spend time worrying about your job.

  11. How about skip the luggage check-in, take a carry-on, and layer as many clothes on your body as possible. hahahaha. Give it the ol’ college try!!!

  12. Been using USPS large flat rate priority mail boxes ($11.50 UNLIMITED WEIGHT + DC TRACKING)for some time. Usually 3 days coast to coast. Generous size box-12x3x13.

  13. DO NOT USE THIS SERVICE!!! I shipped a package ups 2nd day air to arrive at my destination so I would have to check bags. The package did not arrive and the will not open the trailer that it is stored in until Monday. I have no clothing accept what I brought on my carry on. I have to buy dress clothes to go to my holiday party today. Because they won’t open the trailer!!!!

  14. Now they ship luggage, not just luggage boxes. You can send your own luggage through the UPS store. I’m flying delta this week.

    My bag is over 50 pounds. Delta would charge me $90 over and above the normal checked bag fee of $25, so $115 total.

    I’m paying less with UPS. So the service is more for people who have either overweight bags or too many bags where the airline is gouging people to discourage them from sending overweight bags or too many bags.

    The airline doesn’t want you using them form shipping and are pricing it accordingly, opening the door for services like this one for people who need to ship rather than check baggage because of the amount they are sending.

    It is still more convenient and cheaper to check your bags at the checkin counter at the airport if your bags are under 50 pounds and you don’t check more than one.

  15. I am going to Disney World with my wife and 3 small kids. The ability to send our luggage down early and have it waiting for us at our Orlando hotel – PRICELESS!

    1. yeah Dan Vincent…..people really need to check ahead of time these days and send stuff ahead if it’s less money. A must if you are going to visit family and/or friends and know you can just send your things ahead of time to their house and it will be safe and waiting for you. Just pack a box and head to the post office and send it off to grandma, a family can save a money and give Dad’s back a break from not having to lug alot of bags around…

  16. I am 65 years old and have several medical conditions that leave my lifting and carrying weight limit at 10-20 pounds. After several years, I am finally going to visit my parents who live on the other side of the country. In the old days I would have planned to get there and then go off to speciality shops to find some of the things that I would need during my 10 day visit. This year I am going to take advantage of my amazon prime membership to have many of these items waiting for me when I get there. I will also send my clothes ahead of time.I will check out UPS and USPS prices. This is going to make my trip much more enjoyable as I won’t spend the first three days recuperating from a backache. Yeah, not having to drag luggage is a boon to people like me.

  17. Well, for a second checked bag with Air Canada (flying international) is $225 dollars. The first one is $70. So It makes sense for me to simply use this considering it’s way overpriced.

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