A luggage guru suggests how to select a bag that will survive the rough and tumble world of airline travel.
Looking for luggage that can take the predictable knocks of airline travel? Ed Johnson, Southwest Airlines’ damaged-bag specialist for a decade, offers these tips.
- Don’t bet on a hard shell Good soft-sided bags endure abuse better than cheap hard-sided ones, Johnson says.
- Avoid dainty quilted bags The toughest fabrics are ballistic nylon, invented for flak jackets, and Cordura, a nylon used in motorcycle duds.
- Choose recessed wheels The exposed, rotating “spinners” that let bags roll in any direction can snap off easily.
- Look for a grip that hides A locking handle or a grip that’s covered by a zippered flap stays safely in place.
- Favor clean lines Pockets, metal emblems, and strap handles can snag on conveyor belts and luggage carts.
- Get real Your bags bulge? Overstuffing stresses zippers and seams, setting the stage for mishaps. Get a big enough bag.
Illustration by Michael Klein 
This article was first published in November 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.