Small businesses score with hassle-free travel
With more travelers choosing to ship their luggage or even take a private jet, small companies that cater to their needs are reaping big rewards.
By Jessica Seid, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- As travelers pack their bags for Labor Day weekend, excited to enjoy a few days away from home, many must also brace for the dreaded airport experience, which will inevitably bring long lines, flight delays and tedious security checks.

But tighter airport security has done more than just frustrate passengers. It has also brought an influx of new business to companies that try to minimize stress on fliers.

Ken Austin of Marquis Jet Partners said there was a noticeable increase in bookings in the last few weeks.

Some big-spending business travelers have opted for private jets, in hopes of avoiding long delays and luggage restrictions after the Transportation Security Administration changed screening procedures at all U.S. airports - banning liquids and gels at security checkpoints and aboard flights. Many others are opting to travel lightly or fly without luggage and ship their belongings separately.

Marquis Jet Partners, a provider of private jet travel, experienced a noticeable increase in flight bookings in the last few weeks.

Although prices start at $115,900 for 25 hours of air time, "two weeks ago when we had the scare in London, calls were up about 81 percent, and last week there was 142 percent increase in call volume," said Ken Austin, executive vice president of Marquis Jet.

"More and more people are realizing that they can afford it," Austin said. "It's actually become more of a necessity, rather than a luxury."

Although the company has been expanding rapidly, "we think its just the tip of the iceberg," Austin said.

While private planes may only be for the deep-pocketed, many have discovered the luxury of shipping their bags to their destination and flying without hassle.

"The trend is that most people are beginning to realize that they have an alternative," said Richard A. Altomare, the founder of the Coalition for Luggage Security and CEO of Universal Express, which specializes in shipping packages and luggage.

Altomare believes that once more fliers experience commercial travel without luggage, they will never want to schlep again.

For a few hundred dollars (depending on size and weight), luggage shipping services will even pick up a traveler's bags from home and deliver them to the destination as soon as a day later.

Another plus: Shipping services have a much lower lost-luggage rate compared to commercial airlines, which have become infamous for their increasing number of mishandled bags, according to the Department of Transportation.

While many people will go to their local FedEx, UPS or DHL branch, smaller shippers have also been benefiting greatly.

Brian Spindel, COO and co-founder of PostNet, a franchise that offers domestic and international shipping as well as printing and copying services, said that until recently, "it was unusual that people would come in to ship their luggage, aside from golf clubs or skis." But the company has noticed an uptick in the last few weeks.

"We think this may be a great opportunity for us," Spindel said.

As the holidays approach, more travelers will have to grapple with how to transport gifts, bottles of wine and other items they may not want to check, which means more opportunities for small-business owners standing by to take the load off.

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