Monday, May 9, 2011

Dodging Airline Baggage Fees

Vancouver Sun: Bugged by the airline baggage fees you’re getting hit with because (a) your luggage is overweight or (b) the suitcase won’t fit in the overhead bin or (c) both? Lighten up.

That’s what problem solvers in the travel-goods industry continue to do, from trimming the size and weight of suitcases to stitching up lightweight travel clothing, according to Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the New Jersey-based Travel Goods Association.

"It’s all about dodging airline fees because overweight charges of $100 make lightweight key," Marini Pittenger said, adding that checked-bag fees also are driving innovation in the carry-on business. "People don’t want to pay to check a bag. They also want to keep it with them."

So how does that translate into luggage? "Those very large cases that you used to see at the airport, the big 31- and 33-inch cases? They’re giving way to 24- and 26-inch cases," Marini Pittenger said. "Twenty (inches) is becoming the new normal as aircraft overhead bins become smaller," she said of carry-ons. "So what we’re seeing is a lot of 20-inchers, 21-inchers with 22 being the max."

Not only are suitcases becoming smaller, but designers also are tweaking construction elements by using lighter-weight materials "so it’s easier to hoist over your head and into the overhead," Marini Pittenger said, adding they are rethinking hard-sided suitcases.

"Pretty much the lightest luggage out there right now has a hard shell. They make hard-sided luggage that you can pick up with your pinky finger it’s so light," she explained, citing Antler USA. While at Landor & Hawa "we’re finding hard-sided luggage with gussets and expandability."

The lightening up of the travel-goods industry isn’t limited to luggage, judging by the briefcases, backpacks, wallets, clothing and totes on display among the 40,000 items from 215 exhibitors at the recent Travel Goods Show.

The sometimes rugged-looking, light, easy-care clothing at ExOfficio now includes women’s lace-trimmed undies. Hummingbird’s E-Case line of lightweight, waterproof cases offers electronic gadgets protection while allowing users to touch and talk. And RFA Brands Powerbag line of messenger bags, totes, backpacks and briefcases are outfitted with onboard batteries to eliminate the need to pack separate chargers and cords.

"Anything we can do as an industry to take a traveller’s stress away," Marini Pittenger said, "is a good thing."

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