In 2015, Delta began using Atlanta-based Roadie, a crowdsourcing delivery app, to deliver delayed and misplaced baggage to customers. The carrier's move away from traditional baggage delivery vendors has worked. By making use of anyone from airport employees on their way home to passengers themselves, Delta says Roadie has reduced its baggage delivery times by an average of 65%. Airlines editor Robert Silk spoke with Jon Litzenberger, Delta's director of airport customer service support, process and strategy, about the Roadie partnership.

Q: What led Delta to contracting with Roadie?

Jon Litzenberger
Jon Litzenberger

A: We've been investing for quite some time now in ways to just get better and better in our baggage performance, really with a target to lead the industry. As we've been looking at opportunities, the low-hanging fruit has just been harder and harder to find. We are trying to find ways to get that smaller tenth of a percent improvement.

Q: You say you have cut baggage delivery times at the airports in which you partner with Roadie by 65%. Can you give me some specifics?

A: That 65% does vary market to market. But it's basically anywhere from a little more than an hour reduction to, in some cases, up to three to four hours.

Q: How do they achieve the time savings?

A: They are a little like an on-demand pickup, which we love. It's kind of like the Lyft for bags, if you will. And at the same time, because of what we call point-to-point service, we are able to deliver one bag directly to a customer, rather than going through a sorting process, which certainly adds time. So it's a lot of process improvement that we're able to bring to the table.

Q: How do you handle baggage delivery at the airports in which you're not working with Roadie?

A: It's more of a typical courier type of environment, where we'll get the bags, we'll sort them out, we'll give them to contractors and they'll deliver. But there's a lot of handoffs that happen in that process. And what Roadie was really able to help us do was reduce the amount of handoffs and take the bags from our airports directly to the location of the customer.

Q: You're working with Roadie at 51 airports. Do you plan to go systemwide with them?

A: We'll continue to pace along as Roadie continues to grow. We started out with three. We grew to 12. And now we're in 51. A lot of that is we partner with the Roadie team to take a look market by market to make sure that they've got a good saturation of drivers that can guarantee the service levels that our customers deserve. Whether or not they make it to the full system, or all of the United States -- not quite sure yet.

Q: Which of your hubs is Roadie in?

A: Atlanta, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, San Francisco are some of our larger locations.

Q: How did you overcome security concerns, such as a Roadie driver heading off with someone's golf clubs and going to the nearest course rather than that person's house?

A: Fortunately, we have not seen anything like that. We've got very strong and stringent security and background requirements across all of our vendors, and Roadie worked with us very closely to make sure that those standards and background checks were being applied to drivers that drive for Delta. They've done a good job, and the proof has been in the pudding. We've had no issues.

Q: Using Roadie brings benefits to customers beyond time savings, right?

A: Thanks to the technology with the Delta app and our customer-facing technology, the customer is also able to track in real time the status of their bag. Maybe the traditional way of delivering bags is kind of like the cable guy: I'll be there between 12 and 4. With Roadie they can give you a 15-minute window of when that bag is going to be delivered.

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