January 20, 2002 Sunday

Transcript # 012004CN.V36

HEADLINE: Interview With George Hobica

GUESTS: George Hobica

BYLINE: Carol Lin

HIGHLIGHT: Syndicated travel columnist George Hobica shares some insights into how to avoid lines in airports.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are a nation of travelers. And we thought syndicated travel columnist George Hobica can give us some advice. Hi, George.


LIN: Oh, I'm fine. I got to travel tomorrow myself, so this is a bit selfish of me to be asking these questions today, but why don't we -- let's take the traveler to the first step in the travel. When you're at home, and you're getting ready to book your flight, is there anything from that process that you can do to help yourself?

HOBICA: Well, you certainly can do one thing that a lot more travelers are doing, and it's something I do more and more too, is to send your luggage ahead by UPS, FedEx or Parcel Post.

LIN: Isn't that expensive?

HOBICA: Well, it's not that bad. You know, who wants to have their underwear, dirty or otherwise, pawed through in public in the airport, which has happened to me recently? It was clean, I want you to know.

LIN: I'm relieved.

HOBICA: But this avoids it. If you send it by UPS or FedEx, and send it back once you arrive at your destination, and you're done. There's also a company called Virtual Bellhop that will pick up your luggage or skis or golf clubs at your home or your office or your hotel and deliver it to you, and you don't even have to wrap it up in the box.

LIN: How much does this cost?

HOBICA: Well, the FedEx and the UPS alternative, you know, you can send a typical suitcase third or fourth or fifth day for maybe $30, a typical suitcase. The Virtual Bellhop is about twice that. It's more expensive, but it's a more upscale service.

LIN: What with for business travelers, just in case that, you know, you think you're going to Cleveland, but you end up in Denver, so shipping doesn't really work, does it?

HOBICA: Yeah, obviously at the last minute, if your plans change, it's a problem, but you can always have them ship it, trans- ship back to where you are going, and next day service.

LIN: Well, is part of the problem that people just pack too much? I mean, when you're taking your bags to the airport, does that slow you down?

HOBICA: Well, you know, I think it does, and packing light is certainly a good option. And I wonder sometimes if, you know, the airlines are now out of the -- out of the meal business. I mean, it's hard to get a meal on a plane. Maybe they should get out of the baggage system. And it's a radical solution, but it would solve this whole problem. You know, either don't check bags, or how about charging $10 a bag for every bag that you check? That might make people pack light or certainly, you know, think twice about bringing the kitchen sink with them.

LIN: That's true. That's interesting. Well, I read an article in "The New York Times" today about having special express lines for business travelers, or, you know, as business travelers like to call them, the pros, you know, the people who know how to get in and out quickly, don't carry a lot of cell phones and, you know, electronic gear with him, and travel light and move quickly. Do you think express lines are the solution?

HOBICA: I think that's certainly something they should look at, the airlines should look at that. They are experimenting with super- frequent-flier lines and first class lines for people who pay more, figuring they should be able to go through the lines faster. And I think it's actually a good idea to have an express lane, if you don't have any computers or any electronic equipment, or if you don't have any checked baggage at all, why should you wait behind someone who has, you know, an arsenal of business tools, computers and PDAs and, you know, tons of luggage that they're trying to carry on board.

LIN: Have you seen airports around the country experimenting with this idea?

HOBICA: Actually, they have had some, I think in Chicago, for example, Chicago O'Hare has those express lines. You know, some travelers think it's not really fair to give the more, you know, experienced travelers preferential treatment. You know, it's like a second class citizen, a second class flier, versus a first class flier. But you know, I think it probably helps everyone if you have an express lane where just as you do with the supermarket checkout.

LIN: Well, we'll see if this idea takes off. Thanks so much, George Hobica.

HOBICA: Thanks, Carol. Have a good trip.

LIN: Yeah, thanks so much. Wish me luck. All right, George Hobica. You can read his syndicated column in newspapers like the "Boston Herald" and the "Washington Times."