**Update** After receiving a number of emails and questions about the status of this company, I wanted to let everyone know what I know up to this point. As far as I know the company never made it off the ground as many of the advertisers were questioning the actual benefit for the money they would have been paying out. I signed up for the program as well, but have yet to hear anything back. As I state in the article below, the company has a lot of holes in its business plan, but the generally idea is something that could be adapted to something great.
You may not think of it as you are watching a NASCAR zoom around the track, but they are essentially, 200-mile-per-hour billboards.
Slinging ads for everything from fast food chains to whiskey and retailers to websites.
Companies are shelling out big bucks, between $5 and $35 million, to have their ads plastered all over a car in hopes that it will increase business, and ultimately, profits.
These advertisements are being seen by over 5.2 million viewers per year, so it seems very worthwhile to companies that want a lot of exposure. But what would happen if you took that same idea and inserted it into the travel industry?
You’d get an idea like the one that Orion Travel Tech just introduced this past week.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Now before I go any further into this, let me first say that I’ve watched their video and I’ve taken the time to research their website. Both seem to be a little, for lack of a better term, wonky. Not since the likes of the Space Jam movie website have I seen one so terrible, plus I’ve seen better videos made by my 10 year old niece. However, the idea, is something that can really get people talking and one that may cause a change in the way we travel.
Orion promises to pay your checked-baggage fees, up to six times a year, as well as provide you with two, state-of-the-art pieces of luggage just for having advertisements plastered all over those said suitcases.
The nuts and bolts of the program break down like this:
Travelers would sign up with Orion and receive their two, free, ad-plastered pieces of luggage. According to multiple reports it would be a hard-shell set that consisted of a 21-inch carry-on and a 29-inch bag that would need to be checked in. The company would provide the traveler with a $50 gift card to cover their baggage fees each time they travel, up to a maximum of six times per year. After the first six months of being with the service, which are free, travelers would then have to pay a $19.99 annual fee to Orion.
In case you are worried that you’ll get stuck with an ad for something that you don’t want to show off, or something that goes against your values, have no fear! Travelers will be able to select from a number of ever-changing ad campaigns to find what works best for them. Plus they can choose a personalized skin for the opposite side that has a number of popular characters, movies and more.
According to the video, put out by Orion, the skins would then be shipped to you for placement and are supposedly very easy to install. You can watch the video from company below, fast forward to the 3:35 mark in order to get the meat and potatoes of the program (it lasts until the 4:35 mark if you want to stop watching it).
If you watched the entire video, and chances are you probably didn’t (it’s horrible, I know), Orion also explains how they are planning on creating apps for travel, high-tech luggage that can be tracked and even the world’s ‘fun-est’ travel lounges in airports across the globe.
Of course, this idea sparked an interesting debate among the travel community and even people here in the office. So I’ve decided to weigh the potential pros and the cons for travelers. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Possbile Pros of Orion
1. Checked-baggage fees are paid for, mostly
Taking a look at most baggage fees across the wide array of air travel providers and looking at what people think of them shows a pretty telling fact. Checked- baggage fees are expensive and no one likes paying them.
You’ll find a chart to the right that lists some of the more popular airlines and what their current checked-bag fees are. As you can see, Orion promises to save travelers close to $50 per trip, meaning a total of $300 per year with the six trip maximum. Although it may not seem like much per trip, that $50 could buy you a dinner or a cool souvenir. If you look at it in the long term, the $300 could be used towards bills or other expenses. Either way, the bottom line is that Orion is trying to save you money.
2. You get free luggage
According to the people at Orion, travelers who enroll will automatically receive two, free pieces of luggage. These bags, which are said to be a 21-inch carry-on and a 29-inch bag, are “state of the art” and will have a four-wheel trolley system. Personally, I don’t own any hard-shell luggage, or even any luggage with wheels, so I’d sign up just to get bags for free! Woo-hoo!
3. It will be extremely easy to spot your luggage
If you’ve ever stood at the airport baggage claim you know all too well the plight of today’s traveler. The buzzer comes on and up from the ramp comes your black piece of luggage, along with 100 other traveler’s black pieces of luggage. Great. Now you are stuck picking through to find yours.
With the Orion program, it should be fairly easy to spot your luggage if you know there is a giant Colonel Sanders on the front of your bag. Plus the bags appear to be colorful once plastered with a wide variety of ads, meanings you should be able to customize your suitcase enough to be able to pick it out from a crowd.
4. You may not have to put the ads on
I wasn’t sure to put this in the pros or the cons section, but since it technically could benefit the traveler, I’ve decided that it’s a pro.
In the promotional video the company states that they will send you the advertisements in the form of an easy-to-apply skin. The question is, who holds you accountable for applying the skin? Do you have to take a picture of your bag and send it to the company? Or does it just work on the honor system?
If there is no accountability, you could get free luggage, not have to advertise and be able to check your bags six times in a year for close to free.
Potential Cons of Orion
1. Checked-baggage fees are paid for, or are they?
As discussed above, travelers could potentially save $300 per year by signing up for the Orion program. But, in the baggage fees chart provided, you also saw that fees for more than one checked bag could total over the $50 allotted amount that you receive from Orion. At that point, I’d imagine that it becomes the traveler’s responsibility to pay the remainder of the bill.
Furthermore, airlines charge you baggage fees per trip, meaning if you are going away and coming back, you will incur baggage fees twice. Would you be able to use Orion twice on a round-trip flight? If so your six-times a year maximum would be cut in half. Not many people go on vacation and never come back, so this could put major holes in their business plan. Especially for traveling couples and families.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, let’s say you only travel once or twice a year, or you only have one or even no bag that needs to be checked. Could you use the gift card on other things? Is it only good for one specific airline or could you save it and use it another time?
These are all some of the major questions that would need to be answered by Orion.
2. Are there hidden fees with the luggage?
The first six months of the Orion service is free, however after that, travelers will be required to pay an annual fee of $19.99. One of the questions that came up when talking about the new service was, are there hidden fees when it comes to the luggage?
Let’s say you sign up, receive your luggage and then decide to cancel after the six month free period. Do you still get to keep the bags? Or will you have to send them back or even pay the company for the cost? This made us wonder if there would be some sort of agreement or contract that travelers would have to sign with Orion to prevent them from joining, getting free luggage and then canceling the service.
3. You will have an advertisement on your luggage
Yes, Orion will pay for your checked bags, but for some people the advertisements may be too much. Personally, I know that I wouldn’t care, it may actually even be a fun conversation starter while you are traveling. For others however, they are perfectly content with a bland, black bag.
Orion still has not confirmed any advertisers have actually signed on to provide ads, but you can see some examples that they have on their website in the picture to the right. The company says you can choose which ads you want to place on your bags, but if there are only a few brands available you may end up getting stuck with something you don’t like.
4. Does the company really have lasting power?
With Orion paying out an awful lot of money in baggage fees, plus giving away two pieces of luggage, is there really enough juice there to keep the company afloat? If they do land some large advertisers, that will certainly help their cause, but as of now they have yet to confirm who, or if any, advertising brands are on board.
Currently the math just doesn’t seem to add up. Take a Look.
Free Luggage $150 (estimated value)
Paid Baggage Fees $300 (price for a year’s worth of fees)
So Orion will be spending an upfront cost of nearly $500 and you will be getting the first six months of the service for free? Seems like they are expecting to pull in some huge numbers from advertisers. In addition to this, as mentioned above, what’s to stop people from not putting the ads on their luggage or canceling the service after the six month free trial?
There are certainly a lot of uncertainties that come along with the idea that has been presented by Orion Travel Tech, but really that goes with any new business. It will be interesting to see how it plays out and if the company is able to get legs under it.
At the very least, Orion has brought an idea to that table that could help save travelers a lot of money on those pesky checked-bag fees.
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