Luggage Innovation: How Airline Laws Have Affected The Way Luggage is Designed
Today we have a guest blogger:
April Santos is an avid traveler and freelance writer. Once a pack-rat, she would heave her bags from her car, through the airport park and ride and into the terminal. Forced to adapt to the TSA regulations, she now finds that traveling unencumbered is liberating.
In the eighties and nineties, the adage “bigger is better” was practically a way of life. Cell phones were big, TVs were huge, couches had to be large enough to seat a small village, give or take. Makers of luggage were no stranger to these ideas. The ideal suitcase was one that was big enough to fit your entire wardrobe, half the liquor cabinet, a personal library, and the necessary entertainment devices with room left over for almost anything you could imagine needing. Size mattered. Living out of your suitcase was a term coined when you could do just that. But in the wake of 911 and the modern push towards making things small and sleek, has the way luggage designers create new fashion changed?
Airlines enforce increasingly stringent guidelines on what can and can’t be brought on board a flight, and the manner in which it can be carried. Because of weight and size limits, what was true decades ago has been forgotten and the carry on is king. Size still matters, but in a very different way than it used to.
Granted, there are still goliath units out there, which largely haven’t changed much, but you’ll find a much broader variety of smaller luggage options (principally carry-ons) than ever before. Be prepared to pay for that goliath at the check-in window as well and remember that the weight limit on most checked luggage is 50 lbs. That’s quite a bit of weight, but when you think about what suitcases used to be able to carry, it certainly means that you have to take care to stay within limitations.
From a carry-on perspective, the length, width, and height rules are much stricter causing luggage designers to rethink the way they create baggage. If you can’t fit your bag within the rather confined overhead compartment space or beneath your seat so that no part of it sticks out, you usually can’t bring your item with you; you’ll have to check your bags. For those passengers out there who lean toward being packrats, this can be a problem.
The modern trend is smaller, sleeker bags which more often than not have wheels and handles. This increases the mobility of the luggage, making it easier on passengers and on airline employees to transport. However, it does mean that you have to pack more carefully. Not only that, but in the past, where having compartments for dozens of items was almost a necessity, the limitation on what you can bring with you on board a jetliner have created some design changes as well.
The current limitations on containers filled with liquids has also impacted luggage, though no one may have foreseen it. Possibly one of the most common items in women’s luggage has always been cosmetics, whether it is for a weekend stay or a long visit. Luggage that had to be designed to accommodate large cosmetic cases is now irrelevant; because cosmetics bottles have to be smaller, the cases that contain them are also smaller, and therefore the luggage that contains the cases can be smaller too.
Additionally, luggage has been redesigned to be much easier to open and close, due to the frequent inspections of TSA officials. Suitcases used to come with elaborate locks and heavy flaps, but now these have gone out of style, in favor of luggage that meets airline guidelines.
Are the Changes Good or Bad?
That’s going to depend on the traveler. The changes overall mean that travelers need to be much more selective about what they bring with them. Some items that you may have taken with you a decade ago are now likely better left at home (and possibly purchased at your destination). Luggage tailored to fit these new restrictions makes it easier to comply with them, meaning fewer delays for all travelers. Whatever your perspective, next time you’re shopping for luggage, don’t be surprised if you find your options are smaller and more mobile.