Wheeled Airline Luggage Issues
Comments from Travel Insider Readers
Different people have
different needs and different experiences, with different
Here are real world commentaries from Travel Insider
readers, talking about their experiences with carry-on
Part 3 of a 3 part series - click for Parts
Travel Insider readers are
savvy frequent fliers, and they know what they like and don't
like with the luggage they carry.
Below, they share their
thoughts and experiences with many different types of carry-on
Our shortest comment comes
from Charlie, who is a La Jolla based CPA and so presumably has
a careful understanding of cost and value issues :
Briggs & Riley is the best.
Although this is the
shortest comment, it is a common feature in many other reader
comments, too, with Briggs & Riley securing more favorable
(and no unfavorable) mentions than any other brand.
For example, Kit in the San
Diego area - who you might think works for Briggs & Riley, but
actually works for a high tech company, writes
In my opinion, Briggs &
Riley makes THE best luggage available. It comes with a lifetime
guarantee 'Guaranteed for Life - Simple as That' and they DO
stand behind their policy.
I have had their
Baseline Companion Tote on Wheels
in black for a couple of years now, and
it is holding up really well. I use it as a carry on for my
computer, even though it is not a computer bag, and it has no
dings, rips, or tears at all!
I bought their
Baseline Carry-On Garment Bag on Wheels
in 1996, and it has been to
Japan, Guam, Europe, Hawaii and Alaska (three times each), as
well as all over the continental US with me, primarily on Delta.
The only airline damage was inflicted by United, in Denver (that
is no surprise!). In 2001 alone I flew 178,000 air miles
with it, and the bag is still going strong. I've had the
zipper repaired twice, at no cost and minimal inconvenience to
me! There is a repair shop here in San Diego that will fix
an item and return it to me if I tell them I am only in town for
a specified number of days.
I added a
Baseline 26" Upright Gear Bag
. Before I even had a chance to use
it, my neighbor's cat snuck in an open door and sprayed the bag!
Needless to say, I was quite upset, but Briggs & Riley Customer
Service worked with me to get the odor out (dried coffee beans
absorbed the smell) and they offered to replace it if the odor
would not come out!! If that isn't customer service, I
don't know what is.
experiences, Phil in Dover, NH writes
I think I can truly
say I have tried every brand available from the cheap to
the expensive. They all seem to fail due to
baggage handling abuse at one time or another.
introduced to Briggs & Riley about 5 years ago. It is not
an inexpensive brand, but it is not the most expensive brand
either. The thing they do that the other guys don't do...
is fix it no matter what for ever.
I have sent my bags back for
torn zippers, torn sides, broken handles, broken wheels... it
just does not matter. I pay the freight back, they fix or
replace it and they pay the return freight. It is that simple.
When you have a problem, you call for an RMA and they provide it
and the address of the nearest repair facility.
This will be the
last luggage you will ever buy. It has been for me. I have 6
pieces, most of which I bought from their scratch and dent or
discontinued selection. It works great and I know if the baggage
gorilla attacks... I have no problems or paperwork to fill out.
Just call Chuck and get my RMA number. They have
stood by the warranty on ALL occasions for me.
But not everyone has such
positive experiences with warranties offered by other
manufacturers. Richard, a law professor in
Hartford CT writes
I bought a Ricardo of
Beverly Hills carryon because of their lifetime warranty. They
exempt ordinary wear and tear from the warranty, which is
But it turns out that almost
everything that can go wrong with a bag (wheels, handles,
zippers) they view as ordinary wear and tear. And more dramatic
problems, like rips in the bag itself, they assume were done by
the airlines and so is not their fault.
Plenty of readers report
problems with their bags. Typical is this note from Dean
Purchased a Kenneth Cole
Carry on size suitcase last year. So far every zipper pull has
come off for the main compartment and top compartment. Since
they break off, there is no way to replace. Have not been home
long enough to contact retailer where I made purchase. I travel
every week but have never encountered anything like this. Back
to Atlantic where I have had excellent success.
And Leonard found even
expensive attractive bags are not necessarily sufficiently
bought a beautiful carry-on wheelie in Florence, Italy, made
from great black leather. The price was $270.
Unfortunately, the extendible handle stopped working after
10 or 15 trips. I suggest people be careful about the
quality of things like handles and wheels.
Mauricio has mixed
experiences with cheap luggage, but seems pleased with his two
successes out of three tries, and writes
In my experience, expensive
carry-on luggage has no advantage over the cheapest.
I've been using for several years a 22" carry-on that I bought
at Sears for $30. It works fine, and has not broken anywhere.
When I travel on business, I only carry my briefcase and this
carry-on, both of which come along with me inside the airplane.
I've done trips up to 6 weeks long with these two items.
I do not think that a Tumi or a Hartman (that cost well over
$300) would have been any better.
Later on, I bought another two identical cheap carry-ons at
Sears, one for my wife and the other for my daughter. My wife's
is still fine, but my daughter over-loaded it and broke the
From Charles in Dartmouth
Regardless of brand, I've
always considered warranty in buying luggage. A lifetime
warranty is very useful when zippers and handles break several
years out. LL Bean is particularly good at honoring warranties
hassle to the customer, but I believe the quality on some of
their luggage is
not what it used to be.
On one occasion, I had them
replace the heavy duty zipper in a duffle after several years of
usage and with the luggage showing considerable wear (and
perhaps a tear or two) and they charged me about $8 - not sure
how they came up with that. To have the zipper replaced
professionally locally (and in a durable manner) would have been
And from Doug, who has to
own two pieces of Tumi luggage because one is so often being
Here's an important factor :
Tumi, my favorite (and admittedly an expensive) luggage
manufacturer will repair any damage from any cause for an
unlimited time. I
travel a lot, with three pieces of Tumi, and I check a big one
stuffed to weighing at least 70# (I don't mind paying the
overweight fee on the rare occasions when I'm charged it; being
an AA EXP helps).
I have two of these big Tumi suitbags because the weight
subjects it to a lot of potential damage, so I have one to use
while the other is being repaired. The luggage store I patronize
(Bretts, DBA suitcase.com) tells me that there are only a few
brands that could cope with the demands I put on my checked
luggage (I own luggage from all of those brands).
And we'll give the last word on repair and reliability to John,
a Sales Director on the East coast (although it seems he hasn't
sampled the easy no hassle repair service offered by Briggs &
I travel over 200K miles a
year, mostly AP, EU and internal within NA. The carry on bag is
the #1 most important thing I carry, along with my Briefcase (a
whole other story could be written on what briefcase type works
best, especially with all the tech gadgets we all now carry).
I have purchased the very
high end brands (Tumi, etc) as well as the Wal-Mart specials.
The high dollar name brands seem to get all the focus and are
supposed to be guaranteed for life, but unless you have time to
go to a store (assuming you remember where you bought it), find
the receipt, etc, it is easier to buy a new one.
Also, since I travel every
week, I can't wait 12 weeks for a bag to go back and be
repaired. So, I now have 2 carry on, rolling bags - I think I
got them both at a department store on sale and spent around
$150 each. I will not spend $400+ for a carry on OR briefcase
again, it just is not worth it. Too much crazy stuff happens
when traveling and stuff wears out.
Various readers offered suggestions for luggage that has worked
well for them. Tim in Chicago writes
The carry-on suitcase I use,
made by a company I endorse, is the "
Switchback Modular 22
" by Eagle
Creek. This bag is at the limits of carry-on (9x14x22) and has a
daypack (a small backpack) that zips on & off the main bag.
Also, this bag can convert into a backpack itself, and has a
flap that covers the wheels (in order to protect your kidneys,
as well as your clothes).
I use the daypack to store
stuff that should never be in checked suitcases (such as
medicine), so if I ever have to check the bag, all I have to do
is pull the daypack out and check the rest of the bag.
I like the bag because I can
get what I need for a trip packed into it. Another thing that
makes it such a good buy is the lifetime warranty. The warranty
covers just about anything that can happen to the bag outside of
deliberate abuse. For instance, I bought my bag in January of
1998; in January of this year, I sent the bag back to Eagle
Creek because the wheels were making a lot of noise (apparently,
I wore them out). Eagle Creek replaced the wheels (and axle too,
I believe) and sent it back to me. My only cost was the shipping
cost to send the bag, and having to use another bag while mine
was being repaired.
Another reason to consider
this bag is that there are not too many of them out there, thus
it is easy to pick your bag out of the crowd. It also comes in
more colors than black and navy blue.
More enticing is some of the
changes they have made over the years--lighter weight, a hand
grip by the wheels for easier lifting, and more straps/places to
Edwin, a Philadelphia
I think that a new bag from
Atlantic deserves "special mention" for durability, convenience,
and being the ONLY ONE I've ever seen with a CUPHOLDER!!! That's
Professional Expandable Carry-All Suiter
which I got on eBags
for $179 (including shipping).
To date, the best luggage I
have bought is the
Mobilizer NXT 22" Expandable Wheeled Upright
I travel about 200k per year and this has held up the best.
Travel Pro, No Names, etc fall apart.
Joe likes a product featured
on well known travel writer Rick Steves' site :
Rick Steves backpack w
wheels and w/o wheels works well.
Loretta in Pennsylvania
In my next wheeled carry-on,
I will definitely check to see that the bag does not fall over
on its face when full. I have seen models with an extending rack
on the bottom for this purpose, but that is not practical when
you just want to stand the piece independently for a moment.
I like a combination of
soft- and hard-sided, checked luggage. We have 2 hard-sided,
Samsonite cases that have all four wheels on the floor at all
times. The case is slanted in design. My husband refers to them
as R2D2, since they look like the character. They move easily &
freely when pushed or pulled even when full with another bag
strapped to them. Other than being difficult to get into & out
of car trunks, they are great!
Peter in London also
comments positively on Samsonite :
For at least
two years I have
used the tug along which has four wheels on the bottom with an
extending handle, It goes in the overhead locker in most aircraft
from 737 upwards. The 4 wheels are especially good because you
can both push and pull the unit, it's made by Samsonite, I
assume that it is still in production but I rarely see them on
The metal (2 prongs) beneath the handle (pull out type)
could do with being beefed up a little as the metal warps a
(We review some Samsonite
luggage pieces in our specific product reviews.)
Travel agent Brenda in
Arkansas points out an advantage of having nondescript rather
than ostentatious luggage
have one "carry on" bag from
Wal-Mart and a regular size back pack. The roll on has lasted
for the last 12 years, looks a little the worse for wear but is
still holding up. Probably would not look like a good bet for
Not everyone would agree
with her - the nondescript luggage is more easily confused and
you're less likely to spot a thief making away with your bag
when it looks plain and ordinary like so many other bags.
I have Hartman and Delsey
luggage that have held up very well but the best thing I ever
bought was a Sports Plus backpack made by Casual Gear Olympia
for $14.99 at Tuesday Mornings.
It is a rolling carryon with a
long retractable handle, a zipper expander and several pockets .
It has pullout straps to use it as a backpack when hauling other
luggage. The wheels are sturdy enough to have survived trips to
Egypt, India and Turkey. Truly a great buy.
Hartman - a very expensive
brand - attracted some skeptical comments by some readers
who probably have no actual experience with the product, but
reader Michael is a convert. He says
I absolutely must recommend
Hartman rollaboard bags.
I have a seven year old bag with the small wheels and a newer
bag with the "skate" type wheels.
They are indestructible and the new ones with the skate wheels
are super easy to roll around and they have just the right
amount of "tilt" so they don't fall over if they are full.
For what its worth, they seem to be more water resistant,
probably because the ballistic nylon is a tighter weave than the
cheaper thin nylon on most bags.
Mark also likes his Hartman
I own a
Hartmann roll-on type bag I got 12 years ago as a gift (the
pack-cloth type, not the tweed). They are undeniably expensive.
My bag has been to five
continents, and 75 overseas trips in the ten years I can count
in my passport stamps. When it gets mangled, as it does, I just
take it back to a Hartmann retailer, and they send it off to be
fixed, and give me a "loaner" bag while mine is in the shop.
Who can complain about that?
I think they are about $450, but with torn up handles, broken
zippers, rips and tears, I have probably gotten 3 cheaper bags
worth of wear out of it. They are warranted for life. I expect
I'll still be rolling this bag through airports for the next 25
years. My office staff teases me about my bag ("why don't you
wash it?", to which my response is that I don't know anyone who
takes their leisure time to wash their luggage.....) Besides,
next time Hartmann takes it back for a repair, they tend to
clean it up anyway.
From Matt in Harrisburg, PA
I have consistently used two lines and recently tried another on
a suggestion by my ex-wife (flight attendant).
Travelpro has always worn and performed well and has lots of
functional design built into them that others may not (i.e., the
back zip pocket placed at a height above the height of an
escalator step for when it's stuffed full!). However, some of
the Travelpro less expensive, consumer line doesn't seem to hold
up as well.
Travelpro's Vibe and Walkabout lines are their lower-end
offerings. The other lines (Crew, Flight pro and Platinum) are
higher end. I did order a business case from them once, but returned
it - the ballistic nylon case was heavier then the Samsonites
and less functional. That was a couple years ago though.
I've used Samsonite for my laptop/business case for many years,
and they hold up well.
Recently purchased an Atlantic roll aboard and found it to be
pretty good - very comparable to Travelpro (minus some
functional design) and a bit cheaper also.
From Mayer, a security
consultant in Calif :
I have been using luggage
purchased at Costco. They have their Kirkland Signature brand on
some good items. I would be curious to know who makes it for
them. Same with regard to the luggage sold by The Sharper Image. I have had good success there as well, but I think their prices
are too high now.
Candis, a real estate
broker in MT, also comments on Costco luggage :
Our family of 5, very high
elite travelers, uses the Costco brand of roller bags &
briefcases, and the durability is better than any other brand
we’ve suffered through over the years – the only complaint – the
airline can still manage to misplace them WHENEVER I check
(We review Costco luggage in
our specific product reviews.)
From Suzanne, who is truly a rocket
I am not a
business traveler, but do take trips several times a year.
I seldom check my luggage and go for the most lightweight with
wheels for convenience. I have been satisfied with the
cheapest luggage I can find usually at local swap meets.
My current favorite is a large rolling duffle that I can squish
into the overhead. I also use a colored strap for
visibility and just-in-case the zipper breaks, though it never has
happened to me.
Ginny, a NZer now in
Vancouver writes :
Tumi’s wheels are imbedded
in the suitcase, thus ensuring they are stronger and more
stable than many others. Same with their handles.
Love Tumi’s warranty. Anything that falls off is repaired – it
seems forever. No questions asked. Great fabric too.
I am looking for a carryon wheeled piece of luggage (laptop, in
flight necessities, books etc storage) that can be hooked onto
their larger pieces, so I can wheel it through airports instead
of lugging it over my shoulder plus carrying a handbag – every
Charles also comments about
Tumi and has a helpful suggestion if you want Tumi quality
without Tumi price and branding :
We switched from Tumi to its
lower cost but better made subsidiary, Dakota, some years ago.
Tumi's retractable handle cannot be easily operated with one
hand, which is essential when boarding a plane or carrying other
We have been very satisfied with Dakota,
and with Tumi's follow-up service on it when we have had to send
it back to a factory repair shop for service of any kind. Dakota
is very well made and we travel a lot all over the world with
it. And it is about half the price of Tumi itself. Other than
the prestigious label, there is no reason to buy Tumi when you
can get a better item made by Tumi for less.
John mentions a very
different style of carry on (which we will be reviewing in our
specific product reviews) :
Don't forget to look at
Traditionally manufacturers of tool cases for
traveling technicians, they make a couple of hard sided carryons
which have two features I've never seen elsewhere. The extension
handle is on the opposite side of the wheels, giving another 6
inches or so of height, and an ingenious system lets the whole
handle swivel 90 degrees, allowing the hard case to become a
luggage carrier ( complete with binding strap ) for up to a
couple of hundred pounds.
I bought a second one eight years or
so against the sad day when mine might wear out or break, and
the original is still going strong! High quality and durability,
along with the advantage of knowing that it will always fit in
And Colleen suggests yet
another brand :
I have used the Tutto
carryons - the "suiter" and a smaller one for years. I fill them
with clothes, papers and my lap-top. The great thing about the
Tutto bags is that: they are incredibly lightweight, adding
almost no weight to your things; and they are on four wheels, so
you can manuver them easily, you don't have the weight of a two
wheel pulling on your arm, and you can stack other heavy bags on
top of them with no problem.
In almost ten years of use to
travel at least once a week, and in the case of one I used as a
briefcase, every day going to an office where I let it "roll"
down a flight of stairs every day as I left, I had only one
failed wheel (I lost a few handles when I forgot to take them
off before checking them). My family also has the traditional
two wheeled carryons that I purchased prior to getting my Tuttos
and when the Tuttos are taken we use them so I have a firm basis
The Tuttos are so much better than traditional
carry-ons you wonder why more people don't have them. They are a
little pricey, but I believe the biggest hindrance is they seem
to market only through airline magazines. Anyway, I can't say
enough good things about the product and I consider myself a
very tough consumer.
Dale in Australia has had
problems with luggage weight allowances :
I bought a hardshell
carry on with the roller blade wheels and retractable handle
( I am sure you know the style), it is not too heavy, or so
The bag weighs about 6 kg ( just over 13lbs), and I use it to
travel in Business Class ex Australia quite often... I once
traveled economy with the family on a vacation to Fiji on Qantas and
had to practically empty the bag contents and put them in my
check in bag as they were being very strict on the weight
limit... the main problem was I was carrying my laptop in it and
this was making the bag too heavy...
So my best advice would be to recommend any one purchasing any
carry on or check in baggage to really consider the weight of
the bags before purchasing and to go for the lightest bags
possible, otherwise they might end up like me and take a 3 parts
empty carry on, especially when traveling in coach class.
Lastly, we end up where we
started, with yet another reader testimonial about Briggs &
average of 1 transatlantic/transpacific flight per month and have
tried various shapes, sizes, brands and materials for my
(carry-on) luggage in the last 22 years.
For the last two years I am
extremely satisfied with their
20" Upright Business Traveler.
The handle is longer than
most handles I've seen, and an excellent means of attaching
other loads on to : I've hauled as much as a 60 lb garment bag
AND my six year old son through a terminal!
In addition, I mark all my
luggage with the bag tags you wrote about.
Read more in Parts 1 & 2
Part 1 we explain what
to consider when choosing carry-on luggage, including a
discussion of cost, size and capacity.
Part 2 we detail many other
factors to consider when choosing carry-on luggage, including
weight, wheels, and overall construction.
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18 June 2004, last update
19 Dec 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.