If you want a great answer — ask an expert!
It’s difficult to argue with someone who uses a product day in day out — they’ll find the pro’s and con’s you didn’t even realise existed quickly. So, it’s no surprise to see that one of the most googled questions related to luggage is “What luggage do pilots and flight attendants use”.
Not only are you in safe hands — you’d be surprised to know that a pilot actually invented the modern suitcase!
Here we’ll take a look at some demands the professional travellers have — and some top luggage brands they actually use. You might be surprised by the last outcome!
If you know your suitcase history (who doesn’t?!) you’ll know that the suitcases we use today are a relatively new phenomenon.
What you might not know is that the wheeled suitcase was actually invented by a Boeing 747 pilot called Robert Plath.
Frustrated by lugging suitcases through ever expanding airports, in the late 1980s he began tinkering in his workshop to try and make the process easier. In 1987, he found a rather simple but winning combination.
Attaching wheels to the bottom of his case, he combined this with a long handle allowing him to roll it upright through the airport. He called his invention the Rollaboard — and it was a huge step up from the attempts at wheeled suitcases that came before it.
This impressed his colleagues and before long the Rollaboard became synonymous with airline crew — Robert Plath had focused on making and selling bags to his colleagues first.
This business became so successful that just a few years later the airline pilot quit flying to start a full-time luggage company, Travelpro.
Despite the global travel, the airline industry is actually a tight-knit community, with many tips and recommendations passed down to newcomers. For this reason, it is unsurprising that nearly 50 years later arguably the most famous crew brand remains Travelpro.
Briggs and Riley
A newer brand in the flight crew luggage scene — Briggs and Riley is an increasingly popular choice. You might not have heard of them, but the reason they are such a popular brand amongst airline crew is the quality and durability of their cases. They are bulletproof.
To back this up, Briggs and Riley currently have the best warranty of any luggage manufacturer — airline crew pay particular attention to this sort of thing!
With airline crew arguably clocking up more air miles than anyone else, they certainly put their bags through their paces. For this reason, you’ll frequently see airline pilots wheeling a bag like the Baseline expandable. Equally, crews that do shorthaul flying — involving day trips and shorter stays —and need a smaller bag to store paperwork and clothes often use a wheeled briefcase.
For those that are serious about travel, the higher upfront cost is well worth it for the lifetime guarantee alone.
Samsonite is the largest luggage manufacturer in the world. Another American brand, founded in 1910 it also has an impressive history. It is also a truly global brand, being sold in over 100 countries.
With such a huge global influence it is no surprise that its one of the most frequently seen airline crew bags. Having worked in an airport luggage shop and sold hundreds of Samsonite bags to airline crew there are three main reasons for their popularity:
- Crew only models
- Durable and muted styling
- Airline discount
Most airline crew are restricted to navy-blue or black luggage only. In addition, most crew will do plenty of positioning flights — so they often need bags that will fit their individual airlines cabin size requirements as they do not have time to check bags in between every flight.
Samsonite do a huge range of pilot cases — wheeled briefcases popular with crew that use them on one-night layovers or as secondary bags. This includes the DLX-5 model, a professional-grade heavy duty flight bag often available with airline discount.
These two restrictions — alongside needing a sturdy bag that can be used daily — mean that airline crew are actually quite restricted in what they can buy that ticks all the boxes.
As such a huge manufacturer Samsonite have a huge amount of luggage ranges — some frequently only sold to airline crew and in airline luggage shops — and these meet all the requirements the crew need.
By producing these limited ranges — often quite heavy for the travelling public due to their sturdiness — many airlines offer significant discounts to their employees if they purchase one of these approved bags.
As a result, Samsonite continues to dominate crew luggage.
Who are they? I have never heard of them?
While many airline crew choose bags to go with the strict uniform requirements, many crew don’t get a choice at all! Many airlines partner with little known firms such as Gate8 to design bespoke luggage for their crew that matches the airlines uniform and branding.
Hugely popular across the world, from airlines such as Air France and Etihad to All Nippon Airways and low-cost airline Easyjet — Gate8 manufacturer bespoke branded luggage.
While hugely popular for airline crew, it’s worth mentioning that the bags are obviously designed for heavy-duty travel. As such — and this is true of virtually all the bags mentioned — unless you are travelling daily and need the extra strength you may benefit from a slightly lighter bag.
While a major player in the crew bag game, unlike Samsonite and Travelpro, the majority of the travelling public won’t be able to buy from Gate8 — as the bags are designed bespoke for each airline. However, they do have a store selling a small range of unbranded bags which are very sturdy and well worth a look if you are a frequent traveller.