Two new apps are bringing airports into the modern world of
on-demand delivery service.
Airport Sherpa, which launched this month at
Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI), and AtYourGate, which is slated for an August
launch at San Diego Airport, will provide food and retail delivery to their
customers' gates. Better yet, customers can order from any terminal in the
airport, meaning they can enjoy food from their favorite restaurant in a given
airport no matter which airline they are flying.
"Our goal is to help facilitate travel and make it a
little better," said David Henninger, the president and cofounder of
He compared the service his company will offer to delivery
apps such as GrubHub and Postmates, to which many consumers have grown
accustomed outside the confines of an airport.
But once inside a terminal, Henninger said, flyers still
have little choice but to leave their gate and go stand in line for food, a
magazine or whatever else they might like.
"And you're stressed and you're anxious about when is
the plane going to leave? And will there be a gate change? And do I have time
to do all this?" he said.
Airport Sherpa was first to launch, and company cofounder
Patrick DellaValle said the July 11 rollout went smoothly.
On day one, the app was working with approximately 35 of the
restaurants and shops in BWI, which is about half the total number; more have
been signing on each week, he said.
Airport Sherpa promises to deliver food within 15 to 45
minutes, and the app is programmed to know when a flight is delayed, a gate
location is changed or a connection is altered. The app also enables users to
order food for pickup or delivery up to a week in advance.
The AtYourGate service will soon debut at San Diego Airport.
At BWI, Airport Sherpa is partnering with Fraport USA, known
until recently as AirMall, which runs the airport's retail concessions. Airport
Sherpa said it plans to expand to between 10 and 15 other major U.S. airports
by the end of 2018. Among them will likely be other airports that Fraport serves,
including Boston Logan, Cleveland Hopkins and Pittsburgh, DellaValle said.
Air Sherpa delivery fees range from $3.99 to $7.99,
depending on the distance from the vendor to the recipient. DellaValle said he
expects Air Sherpa to do about 70% of its business in food, with the remainder
coming from retail items.
AtYourGate expected to be live in San Diego by the end of
August, in a second U.S. airport by the end of the year, and in at least six
more next year.
The company is promising a delivery time of 30 to 45
minutes, and when a flight is delayed, AtYourGate will check with customers to
see if they would like delivery to be held until shortly before boarding.
Delivery will cost $6.99 per order, but for that fee,
AtYourGate can bring food and retail items from more than one vendor.
One notable difference between AtYourGate and Airport Sherpa is that AtYourGate has
partnered with the app Grab, which already provides mobile ordering for pickup
service at 18 U.S. airports, including San Diego. That means that AtYourGate
customers will feel like they are doing business with Grab from a consumer-interface standpoint. To make a delivery order at participating airports, they'll
download and use the Grab app.
Travel technology analyst Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere
Research said he expects gate delivery services to be well received both by the
traveling public and by airport vendors, assuming that the logistics of making
deliveries within the sometimes-challenging environment of an airport are well
The apps, he said, will open up a wider variety of eating
options to travelers and also conserve time for business travelers who like to
get work done during a layover.
"We sit at the gate because we are concerned about our
flight or because that is where the power outlet is," Harteveldt said. "With
these new services, gate time is no longer downtime."