Craving doughnuts, Thai or burgers at the airport? Get it delivered.

  • A new mobile delivery service has launched at the San Diego airport, bringing food, magazines and other retail items to passengers at their gate.
  • The new service, via AtYourGate, is initially available for seven of the airport’s more than 80 concessions.
  • An introductory delivery fee of $2.99 is being charged, and it will rise to $6.99 after 90 days.

Cooling your heels at the airport gate and craving a burger or a grilled chicken burrito? No need to risk missing your boarding call to satisfy your hunger pangs. San Diego International Airport has an app for that.
Starting this week, Lindbergh Field becomes one of just two airports in the country to offer mobile delivery to passengers, jumping on the order-ahead craze popularized by such online platforms as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Postmates.

San Diego-based AtYourGate, which calls itself an “in-airport personal shopper,” is partnering with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to provide the delivery service to each of Lindbergh’s 51 gates.

It is starting out slowly, offering the delivery option for seven of the airport’s more than 80 concessions, including Saffron Thai, Qdoba Mexican, Jack in the Box, Panda Express and Artisan Market. Donut Bar products will be available from Elegant Desserts — when they’re not sold out.

And the last of the seven is a retailer — CNBC News and Gifts, where passengers can order anything from a phone charger and earbuds to a pain reliever or Cosmopolitan magazine.

The only other U.S. airport to have in place a mobile delivery service is Baltimore Washington International, with the help of Airport Sherpa, which is planning to add five more airports over the next several months.

“From an airport perspective, this is about raising customer satisfaction,” said Rick Belliotti, Director of Innovation and Small Business Development at the San Diego airport. “When we look at the passengers, we have a large number who want to go directly to their gate and can’t get a meal, so this is one way to meet the customers where they are.

“And from a technology view, it’s bringing that sharing economy into an airport, which is not really being done yet. And as a consumer I get more options. There are concessions in the app that aren’t available in other parts of the airport.”

While most of the airport’s higher profile venues are located in the larger Terminal 2, AtYourGate will deliver purchased items from those concession to passengers in Terminal 1. Deliveries of beverages from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1, though, are not yet possible because of airport security hurdles, Belliotti said.

Like any other mobile delivery app, AtYourGate allows users to browse the offerings, be it a menu or list of sundries from the gift shop, and at the end of the order they will be advised of the delivery time window.

AtYourGate founder PJ Mastracchio estimates a delivery time of 15 to 25 minutes, which includes the time it takes for the runners, outfitted in teal long-sleeve v-neck tops and black yoga pants, to deliver the food, transported in thermal bags.

“I’ve traveled quite extensively and I’m an early adopter of the on-demand economy, but you get to the airport and you stand in line and you’ve got tight connections,” said Mastracchio, who formerly owned a health technology firm. “I want to make a phone call, hit the restroom, get something to eat and I can’t do all that in 10 minutes.

“And at the San Diego airport, you’re confined to the choices you can only see. You may not know Saffron is available if you’re in Terminal 1 or in Terminal 2 East.”

An introductory delivery fee of $2.99 will be charged over the next 90 days, rising to $6.99 after that. Add that to what are typically higher costs for items purchased at the airport, and it can be a pretty pricey proposition, but there is something to be said for convenience, says food service analyst Warren Solochek.

“Delivery is all about getting food when you want it, and if they can pull it off in an airport, it’s following a trend more and more people are taking advantage of when they’re not in airports,” said Solochek, president of Food Service for the NPD Group, a market research firm. “Going to an airport is one of the least convenient things I can think of that a human can do, so if this brings you something you can eat at the gate or you can bring on the plane, it’s a huge win.”

The idea of bringing a delivery service to Lindbergh Field dates back to 2015 when the Airport Authority was also contemplating starting an innovation lab.

In 2016, the airport formally sought proposals from bidders, received five applicants and by early last year, AtYourGate was selected. The plan was to launch the service last year, in partnership with a second company, but the arrangement felt too cumbersome, and the operation was revamped, Belliotti said.

As part of the contract with AtYourGate, the airport receives 7 percent of the delivery fee, he added.

Mastracchio would like to see 25 more airport concessions added to the app by the end of the year, although Belliotti is not ready yet to commit to a firm goal. Everything depends on how smoothly the current operation runs.

Before launching this week, AtYourGate tested the service with airport employees for about six weeks and will continue to deliver to them.

“There are so many unknowns in an airport that we needed to work through, like how do you get the product from one terminal to another, how do you engage TSA and other agencies and how do you write the contract, so there was lots to learn,” Belliotti said.

“I think if it works here, it can work elsewhere.”


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Twitter: @loriweisberg