Milwaukee airport lets travelers check their coats before leaving for warm destinations

If you’re the type of person who lives in a cold-weather state but  flees winter each year in favor of a warm-weather destination, you’ve probably faced this dilemma: what do you do with your heavy winter coat?

You can stay warm on the way to the airport and then lug your winter coat with you to the beach, where you won’t need it. Or you can leave the parka at home or in your car and freeze on the way to the airport terminal, then, freeze again on the return trip. 

The folks at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport say they have come up with a solution: Leave your coat with them.  

“Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport is proud to announce the debut of a new coat check service,” the Milwaukee County-owned airport said in a statement Thursday.

“The new amenity is sure to be a hit with travelers heading to warm weather destinations,” according to the statement.

Travelers had been asking for the service, with ‘where can I leave my coat?’ being one of the top questions asked at the airport’s information desk, explained airport spokesman Harold Mester.

“We think this is something that the traveling public will take advantage of,” he said.

The airport is prepared to handle as many coats as people drop off, whether 100 or 1,000 or more, Mester said.

Those numbers are sure to soar during spring break, when tens of thousands of Wisconsinites head to Mitchell to catch a flight to just about anywhere warm.

Spring break is the busiest time of the year at Milwaukee’s airport, far outpacing travel during the busy holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

During the peak of spring break travel, the airport can see upward of 24,000 passengers a day. 

“We believe we’re the only major airport in the nation to offer coat check services, and it’s a great fit during our harsh winters,” Brian Dranzik, airport director, said in a statement. “Heavy winter coats can take up a lot of space” in overhead bins on planes and in luggage.

The cost for the coat check service is $2 per day, with a maximum charge of $10.

The new program is destined to be a hit, said Peggy Fischer, president and owner of Shooting Star Travels in West Bend.

“I think it’s really, really smart,” Fischer said. “It’s really ingenious.”

Fischer said she believes most people are like her and leave their coats behind when they park at the airport.  

“I leave it in the car and I hate it,” Fischer said.

She would gladly pay the $2 a day and even the maximum of $10 to leave her coat at the airport. “That’s a no-brainer,” she said.

The new policy could even help alleviate the perpetual shortage of overhead bin space on flights.

“We encourage customers to hang onto their coats and jackets to allow space for everyone who has carry-ons that don’t fit under the seat in front of them,” Dan Landson, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines said in an email. “If there’s space in the bins after boarding is completed, then we let customers know they may put their coats and jackets in the overhead bins.”

But if the bins are full, you might have to keep your coat on your lap for an entire flight.

Southwest is the market share leader at Mitchell International. The airline typically puts 20 additional flights on its Milwaukee-to-Florida routes each Saturday during the spring break peak. 

The new coat check service at Mitchell will be offered in partnership with the airport’s retail partner, Paradies Lagardère. The service will be offered inside the new Summerfest Marketplace store, which is located in a pre-security area in the airport’s concession mall.

Travelers arriving from international destinations will need to take a free shuttle from the International Arrivals Terminal to the Main Terminal to retrieve their coats.

Spring break:  Vacation spots that are blissfully free of spring breakers, from Barbados to Portland

Contact Joe Taschler at (414) 224-2554 or jtaschler@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTaschler or Facebook at facebook.com/joe.taschler.1.

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