Ever wish you could order delivery at the gate? Or, perhaps, even from your seat during an airline layover? You may soon have that option thanks to a new set of start-ups seeking to cater to that demand.
San Diego International has become the second airport in the country to benefit from an app-powered service that lets passengers and employees in the terminals order food, drink or merchandise for sale anywhere in the airport and have it delivered to them wherever they are in the airport.
Billing itself as “Your in-airport personal shopper,” At Your Gate did a soft launch of its service at the end of January with the company’s three founders joining two employees in making the initial in-airport deliveries to flight attendants, airline employees working gates and ticket counters, ramp break rooms and to a few passengers who caught wind of the program.
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“Airport employees figured out the benefits of the app right away,” said PJ Mastracchio, At Your Gate founder and CEO, who made at least one early delivery himself by skateboard. “On Super Bowl Sunday we got an order to deliver to two donut bars to a United Airlines baggage worker timed to his break and another request for a dozen orders of chips, salsa and other menu items for a Super Bowl party in the Virgin America break room.”
Mastracchio said many flight crews with short turn-around times have already ordered food delivered to them at the gate. More broadly, at least one airline has set up an account with At Your Gate so they can order food for passengers in the first-class cabin in case the ground catering service doesn’t have time to restock a departing flight.
“We’re not sure yet how that would work,” said Mastracchio. “They may just pass the app around and let passengers place their orders.”
Another possible application for the app: delivering food to “through” passengers on Southwest Airlines flights who can’t get off the plane to buy a snack. “Southwest doesn’t cater flights and there are passengers flying from, say Las Vegas to Los Angeles who have to stop in San Diego on the way,” said Mastracchio. “We’re talking with Southwest about maybe being able to deliver food to the plane or to the gate agent who will bring the orders down.”
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At Your Gate is currently charging airport and airline employees a $2.99 delivery charge. Passengers in the airport will pay a $6.99 delivery charge when the service officially opens to them next month. That’s equal to the fees off-airport delivery services charge, says Mastracchio. It’s also what At Your Gate’s research has determined passengers, especially those with expense accounts who need to be productive at the airport, will be comfortable paying.
Across the country: Airport Sherpa
At Your Gate will expand to other airports soon, but for now there’s another gate-delivery service, Airport Sherpa.
Airport Sherpa has been operating at Baltimore/Washington International Airport since last July. According to a company spokesperson, they’ve delivered meals to thousands of passengers inside the terminal and filled hundreds of orders from American Airlines via its Delayed Meals Program, which provides snacks and meals to passengers whose flights are delayed more than 2.5 hours.
Airport Sherpa says it will be serving perhaps 10 other airports by the end of 2018.
Harriet Baskas is a Seattle-based airports and aviation writer and USA TODAY Travel’s “At the Airport” columnist. She contributes to Ben Mutzabaugh’s Today in the Sky blog. Follow her at twitter.com/hbaskas.
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