Travel Fees: Get Over It and Purchase the Right Bag for a Low Price
In January, major air carriers increased the baggage fees yet again to help offset the costs of lower ticket sales and all-around lower ticket prices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, around $740 million were collected in just the third quarter of 2009 for baggage fees alone. Continental Airlines took in $270 million last year and predicts it will take in $350 million in 2010 for checked bags fees. At $20 (American, United) to $25 (Delta, Continental, US Airways) per bag, that's a lot of luggage.
And, it is. But to avoid fees, passengers are leaning towards carry-on items over checked baggage. This creates even more bags that need to be safety screened by the TSA. With that come security concerns which lead to other rules and procedures that the TSA will eventually put in place.
Until then, let's give the cabin crew a break and stop blaming them for the airlines' nickel-and-diming and just purchase a bag that is lightweight, sturdy, and fits nicely in overhead compartments.
For carry-on business bags, you don't have to worry so much about rough handling on the material because it isn't going up and down those conveyor belts, and the handlers won't be throwing it onto the plane. Think about choosing exotic or full-grain leathers because they can last for a lifetime. On the other hand, a simple ballistic nylon material will do just fine.
You do have to worry about weight, however, since you'll be the one lifting it up to fit it in the overhead bins and the airlines also have strict weight restrictions for carry-on bags. The weight limitations differ from carrier to carrier, but typically you're looking at anywhere from 25 lbs to 45 lbs depending on whether you are flying domestic or international. On Wikitravel, you can find a list of all the weight restrictions before you go out and buy a bag.
Bags made out of aluminum are typically more sturdy and lightweight. Those made out of cheap plastic may be lighter, but can break after just a few uses and will be hard to fit in small overhead spaces. Many manufacturers have created lightweight products that are also sturdy, such as Landor & Hawa's Sub-0-G luggage series for around $130 or Eagle Creek Tarmac's ES 22 series for around $300. I'd go with the Landor & Hawa bag since it won "world's lightest luggage" at the 2009 Travel Goods Association Product Innovation show. The Sub-O-G is 30" tall and weighs just over 6 lbs, whereas Eagle Creek's ES22 bags are around 8 lbs and only 22" in height.
Most manufacturers now build carry-on bags with special zip-pockets so you can easily find items without scavenging through all your personal items in front of other passengers. It's also typical for manufacturers to include side compartments for files and laptops. One carry-on that is known for its expansion capabilities and pockets is the Helium Fusion Expandable Suiter Trolley. For around $100, this bag costs the same as checking your bag on five flights. What a steal!
However, some fashion experts in a WSJ.com article say you should just eliminate the extra side pockets because they take more space. I disagree.
Regarding hardware, functional wheels are important so you can move around tight spaces and talk on your cell phone while drinking a frappaccino and maneuvering around the airport. Business travelers rave about the Atlantic Graphite Lite 2 Upright Spinner because of its ability to turn 360 degrees easily. As a lightweight and lower priced carry-on ($120), it's currently a very popular bag.
On the other hand, if price isn't an issue and you're more concerned about grabbing a coffee and perhaps leaving your bag with the guy on your redeye that wouldn't stop yapping, Heys USA's BioCase (also a winner at the Product Innovation Awards) only opens for the correct fingerprint registered with the bag. As I mentioned, it's pricey with a tag of $2200 or more, but the 20" carry-on has biometric technology...probably not the cheapest thing to develop.