Travel Startup LugLess Buckles Down and Accelerates Growth in the Age of COVID-19

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In early April, demand for air travel essentially came to a virtual halt as TSA passenger screenings dropped by 95%. Given the unprecedented situation, Boston-based luggage shipping service LugLess began to question the survival of their business.

LugLess offers a more convenient and cheaper alternative to checking bags the traditional way (via airlines), by enabling travelers to send their luggage to their final destination in advance. The company takes pride in a booking and shipping process that is is remarkably simple:

  1. Book — Input trip details, choose bag types (LugLess offers a calculator to determine each bag category). LugLess finds the absolute lowest UPS and FedEx rates for you.
  2. Print — Print a shipping label and attach it to each of your bags.
  3. Ship — Drop off your items to a local UPS or FedEx location, or pay a small extra fee to have your bags picked up from your home or office directly.
  4. Fly — Head to the airport bag free, skip the check-in line, bypass the crowded baggage claim and meet your bags at your destination.

But back in March, as fear of Covid-19 took hold and passengers opted to avoid airline travel,, business began to suffer. While the entire American economy was compromised, travel and tourism business was targeted harshly, as the imminent quarantine measures were put into force. “In 2019, LugLess was growing about 300% year-over-year, and was on a similar trajectory in 2020 until the pandemic hit; n business suddenly dropped by more than 50%,” said Aaron Kirley, President of LugLess.

However, it soon became apparent that the service could actually be beneficial to those who were reluctantly traveling, who wanted to avoid as many close interactions as possible at the airport. “We began to see a steady uptick in the amount of people using us as a means to avoid crowded areas like the check-in line and the baggage carousel at the airport,” said Kirley. “It was really interesting, because we built this technology for convenience and affordability — but the pandemic showed us that it also had an added safety component already baked in.”

LugLess moved quickly to rework their messaging to accentuate the safety benefits that appealed to travelers in this new environment. With this simple repositioning of the service, business has not only stabilized, but has nearly tripled from pre-pandemic levels. And, as travel patterns reopen and evolve, it is becoming clear that there are other new use cases for the business. “We’ve seen a huge increase in customers booking extended trips, sometimes for months at a time, who then ship three or more suitcases with LugLess, which can be hundreds of dollars cheaper than checking.”

One does not need to have a flight reservation to use LugLess. The service can simply be used to send items anywhere in advance. “Now that everyone has the ability to work from any location, people are taking advantage by getting out of the city or just changing their scenery and staying somewhere different and taking all of their essentials along with them,” remarked Kirley. American businesses are having to be courageous and creative in 2020, and it is the small business culture that will ultimately get the country back on its feet, when the virus has run its tragic course. Political and economic unrest means that brands must stay focused, and do regular philosophical inventories in order to stay alive.

Lugless provides an entrepreneurial example of making lemonade from lemons. The company began as a travel alternative that offered to save money, time, and hassle for flight passengers. But the company is willing to flex, and shows the ability to listen to its clients. The important thing in life is less what happens, and more how one reacts. “If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that chaos and change can often create opportunities you never even imagined — if you know where to look and how to respond.

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2x pet tech founder, publicist, writer, and dog mom. I love learning about what makes CEOs tick.

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