Travel Tech startup alltheway launched this year with a simple idea that masks a much larger ambition. The Paris-based company allows travelers who have booked a flight to check their bags at hubs in such city center spots as a hotel, and then go to the airport without having to lug their suitcases with them. The bags are then transported directly to the airport and placed in the baggage system to be loaded onto the plane.
Creating the platform behind the company's Mobile Baggage Management System (MBMS) proved to be an immensely complex task that required a sophisticated platform that blends logistics, data, and security. Co-founder and CEO Émilie Gazeau said it's just the start of a plan to create an e-commerce platform for travelers that leverages big changes coming to airports and train stations.
"We feel like – although it looks like it's stupid, it's just luggage, no one really cares – the relief that people get out of such a service we feel outweighs the monetary value," she said. "But we have a roadmap that goes beyond luggage. Luggage is just the first step of our whole strategy. The name of the company is not Super Luggage. It's 'alltheway' because luggage is one element of all the solutions we want to develop for airlines, airports, and train companies."
What is alltheway?
To start, alltheway has placed baggage hubs in several Accor hotels across Paris. For the moment, they work with Air France, but the goal is to eventually make the service available for all airlines.
A traveler can use the alltheway app to book a time to drop off their bag so there are no waiting lines. The first bag costs €25 pour and each additional bag costs €10. When the customer arrives at the yellow alltheway kiosk, an employee of the startup greets them, helps them weigh the bag, and scans their information. A baggage ticket prints out – just like at the airport – but the machine also creates a blue seal with a QR code to be placed across the zipper to ensure the bag is not opened.
With the app, the traveler can track the exact location of their bag from drop off to pickup at their destination.
As the company expands its dropoff hubs across Paris, it is also planning to launch two expansions of the service. The first will allow travelers to book someone to come to their home and check in their bags. The second will pick up your bags after the flight and deliver them to your home to avoid lengthy waits at the baggage carousel.
In all these cases, the bags are transported to and from the airport in secure vans that are owned and operated by alltheway. When the bags reach the airport, they are placed in the same backend security system as when a passenger drops a bag at the airline counter.
"We're enabling people to save time and to have a more efficient and less stressful trip," Gazeau said. "This is why we call ourselves airport-as-a-service. We bring the airport to people's homes."
Creating a more convenient and pleasant travel experience is just one part of the equation for alltheway. The company also wants to make it easier to choose public transportation for that trip to the airport to reduce carbon emissions. After 6 months of testing, the company says two-thirds of customers take public transportation rather than a taxi or other car.
"For travelers, luggage is a problem," Gazeau said. "Because of the luggage, you have to take a taxi to go to the airport. You have to queue for 45 minutes to check in your bags. You have to lug around your luggage. It's heavy. It's cumbersome. And it's just complex for your mobility, especially for families, for seniors, for people with handicaps. For corporate travelers, when you have a lot of luggage, it's costing you a lot of time and causes a lot of inefficiencies."
But the service is also intended to address a looming problem for airports. Airport traffic has been growing rapidly since Covid restrictions were lifted. That growth is expected to continue, which is causing longer wait times at the airport and overwhelming infrastructure like baggage handling.
Most airports don't have the option to physically expand or add additional capacity to meet this flux, which means travelers need to arrive even earlier and wait in even longer lines to ensure they get through the check-in process. Many were already trying to develop strategies for offsite baggage check-in, and alltheway believes it can accelerate the deployment of such services, Gazeau said.
Under The Hood
Because airports at choked with outdated and legacy technologies, however, expanding their systems from within is problematic. However, building a system from the outside also proved to be complex, requiring a platform that could implement widespread data sharing and collaboration while also ensuring security.
The system had to adhere to airline rules on things like weight reconciliation while also integrating into various hotel systems. The initial rollout out is effectively a proof-of-concept trial with Air France, but the company has a partnership signed SkyTeam, the alliance of 19 airlines that includes Air France, Delta, KLM, and Virgin.
"The whole IT systems, you can imagine, in airports and hotels is a nightmare," she said.
Working with Air France, the team built a platform that could be integrated into airport systems by leveraging multiple open APIs and cybersecurity tools. The platform had to meet strict requirements for protecting personal data while also respecting airport security. Eventually, French regulators at the Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile approved its use for airports.
As part of the overall system, all staff who work with alltheway are full-time employees who are vetted by the same security process and background checks that apply to anyone working at an airport. That includes more than 11 hours of training on security. "Our staff is not like someone who makes deliveries for Uber Eats," Gazeau said.
The platform allows the company to track the bags at every step as well as its trucks. The QR code is scanned at every step to ensure the bag has not been opened to prevent theft or the introduction of any dangerous items. If the QR code is damaged or can't be scanned for any reason, the bag can't proceed to the next part of the delivery. In the first 6 months of trials, that hasn't happened yet. But if it does, because the company is closely tracking the movement of its trucks and drivers, it should be able to identify where the problem occurred.
Alltheway's co-founders are:
- Émilie Gazeau: CEO, she was previously an analyst, product manager, and then brand manager for L'OREAL for almost 12 years. She later joined AI and data consulting firm Artefact before leaving last year to start alltheway.
- Julien de Colfmacker: COO, previously spent years with the Samsic Groupe where he worked with airports around the world to launch new services.
- Anouar Zbaida: Chief Technology Product officer, he was previously a data engineer at Talend and had done some data consulting with Accor. More recently, he spent two years at Snowflake before joining alltheway.
Gazeua's background involved creating a lot of data collaborations around retail projects. That meant developing methods for Tesco to collaborate with Procter and Gamble, Unilever to collaborate with Carrefour, etc. In 2019, she was approached by Accor and Air France for a consulting project on how they could use their loyalty programs to create more value for customers. The work on this project led to the idea of off-airport baggage check-in.
I knew nothing about hospitality and travel," Gazeau said. "I just applied to the problem what I learned from Amazon and structuring e-commerce and retail systems."
It turned out that de Colfmacker had already started working on designing such a system for Air France. He had relocated to Chicago for another airport project when Gazeau contacted and invited him to join her in launching the company.
Meanwhile, Gazeau knew she also wanted a technical co-founder. So she began combing through the LinkedIn profiles of people at data-focused companies that she admired. That included Snowflake where she came across Zbaida's name. She reached out to him and learned he was just about to move from Paris to the US for Snowflake. He was excited to jump to a project that would keep him in France.
"I just contacted him and said, 'Hey, dude, I just love what you seem to be doing. I would love to present to you our travel tech project.' He was crazy enough to say yes to that meeting. And since then, it's just been an incredible journey. What he has done in six months is just incredible. I didn't think we could do this so rapidly. He's really a genius."
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