Stacked up over O'Hare? Try a little holiday shopping

December 09, 1992|By Dallas Morning News

Maybe "Shop till you drop" isn't exactly the right motto Perhaps shop till you land has a better ring to it. At least airline officials hope so.

We shop by mail and we shop by phone. It was inevitable that someday we'd shop by air.

Ten airlines at five major airports now offer SkyMall -- a service that lets passengers order merchandise from major retailers such as Bloomingdale's and FAO Schwarz while in flight. Your plane may be circling for a landing when you call and order that special Christmas toy, but it'll be at the airport before your luggage even makes it to the carousel. And that's not all you can buy sky-high. Concert and theater tickets can be reserved and flowers delivered.

Right now, airport delivery is offered at Chicago O'Hare International, Los Angeles International, Denver Stapleton International, Atlanta Hartsfield and Phoenix Sky Harbor International. Both Dulles and Washington National airports in Washington are coming on board in February, and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is expected to join next year. SkyMall officials are planning to add 20 other cities to the list by 1994.

Here's how SkyMall works: Shoppers choose from a catalog and use a phone available on the plane to call a 24-hour toll-free number to order merchandise. The items can either be delivered to them at the airport or somewhere within the metropolitan area of the airport on the same day. The charge for airport delivery is $6.95; same-day delivery at a nearby location costs $9.95. Second-day service is $7.95. Delivery costs cover all items ordered, no matter how many, and prices are the same as those offered through direct mail catalogs.

Major airlines participating are United, American, Delta, USAir, Continental and TWA. Regional airlines include Alaska, Aloha, Atlantic, Horizon and Skywest. Some of the retailers included in the catalogs are Hammacher Schlemmer, Coach Leatherware, The Nature Company and The Chef's Catalog.

SkyMall was conceived in 1989 by former Price Waterhouse manager Robert Worsley. The venture was funded by WordPerfect co-founder Alan Ashton.

The most recent addition is United, which started offering the service in the summer.

More than 90 percent of United's domestic aircraft offers the GTE Airfone Seatfone service, which means that there is a phone for every seat in first class and one for every three seats in coach.

"We've really found that people are using SkyMall this year to Christmas shop more than ever before," says Jan Redding, SkyMall's director of marketing.

Sales usually triple around Christmas, she says. This year, sales already are four times as high.

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