An Uber for Luggage?

Delivery-service startup Roadie uses app to reunite travelers with lost bags

By Noah Moore

Published June 3, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


Though Kevin Powell makes money driving to and from the airport, he isn’t an Uber, Lyft or taxi driver.

Powell helps to deliver lost or delayed luggage at Pittsburgh International Airport. He’s one of more than 90,000 people nationally driving for Roadie, an Atlanta-based delivery service startup that uses a ride-share system similar to Uber and Lyft — but instead of people, it transports objects.

“When I come to the airport to pick up lost luggage, I get five to six pieces of luggage every time,” said Powell, a Roadie driver in Pittsburgh. “I have really enjoyed it so far and have been able to make some extra cash.”

Looking for quicker ways to reunite passengers with lost luggage, Delta Air Lines formed a partnership with Roadie in 2015. It’s now the primary luggage return service for Delta at more than 55 airports, including in Pittsburgh. Since Delta began their partnership, delivery times have become 65 percent faster, according to a statement from the airline – and other carriers, including United Airlines, have started using the service as well.

The success in using Roadie comes from the system used to assign drivers to deliveries. Drivers are contracted on-demand and are incentivized to do it quickly to be able to complete another delivery, and make more money. This increases delivery times and efficiency, in turn.

Delivery-service startup Roadie uses app to reunite travelers with lost bags at airports including Pittsburgh International Airport. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Here’s how Roadie works: passengers report a lost bag and provide their name and address to a representative of the airline’s baggage office. When the bag is found, Roadie alerts drivers who use the app to find available pickup opportunities. A driver signs up for the delivery and heads to the airport. Passengers can download the Roadie app to see the status of the delivery in real time or sign up to receive email or text message notifications.

Roadie CEO Marc Gorlin added that the app is also tailored for personal use.

“Users can set up a delivery on the app or online, enter their destination, item size and when they need it, and we will match them with the most appropriate driver with the closest proximity,” Gorlin said. “There are about 250 million people driving with over 4 billion cubic feet of excess capacity every day, so our app really taps into that.”

For passengers who have experienced delayed luggage arrivals, like Tony Simon from Atlanta, the service is a quick and efficient solution to the problem.

“All in all, it was extremely satisfying, aside from my bag not showing up at the airport, obviously,” said Simon, whose luggage was delivered via Roadie following a trip home from Lisbon, Portugal.

Though the company has roots in Atlanta, its services have expanded to more than 11,000 cities — a larger footprint than Amazon Prime Now, according to the company’s website.

“This really makes a better experience for passengers,” said Gorlin. “What used to take eight to 10 hours now takes barely over two hours. As a result, this increases customer satisfaction. Technology obviously has a large impact, but when technology affects customers in a meaningful way, that is what makes it special.”

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