Don't buy "designer" luggage because it looks good. You don't buy luggage because it looks good, you buy it to protect your stuff when you are travelling. If it's pretty but it breaks the first time you use it then it isn't worth the price of the designer label.
Don't cheap out on your luggage. If you look around on airline ramps you will find lots of pieces that have broken off of cheap luggage. Cheap luggage very often breaks, and it often breaks open, possibly spilling your stuff onto the ramp.
Hard cases are the best. I have in mind specifically Pelican, Zero-Halliburton, and Samsonite. Good names in luggage
which build outstanding products. There are other good manufacturers of luggage, but the important thing is to get luggage which won't crush with 600 pounds of other luggage stacked on top of it.
If you like softside cases get ones that will protect your stuff from getting wet, because your luggage will spend some time outside waiting for planes, and airport ramps are often rainy or snowy places. We try to get your luggage covered as quickly as possible when inclement weather hits, but unless you're flying on an airliner where the luggage is loaded into containers indoors we're going to have to uncover it to load and unload it.
Also, if you use softside cases make sure they're packed mostly full. Softside cases that are not packed full will collapse under the weight of the luggage stacked on top of them.
Don't overpack your softside cases either. Softside cases are secured with zippers, which can split when put under too much stress. If you pack your bag until it is full to bursting... then don't be surprised when it does.
Beware of "expandobags" which have zippers to adust the bag's size to your needs. I haven't seen one of these yet that was not fully open to its maximum size. They're a good idea, but no good idea exists in a vacuum. I find them to be weaker than conventionally constructed luggage. And they usually don't have handles where they (read: we) need them.
If you really have to carry a lot of stuff then you'd be better off packing two smaller bags instead of one overstuffed one. If you're really carying a large lot of stuff then you'd be better off with another bag. Paying the extra bag charge would be better than having your stuff spilled on the ramp. In the worst case, if you really have a lot of stuff you can ask the airline to ship it as freight. They will do this for a nominal fee, and if it doesn't ship on the same airplane you fly then it will generally arive at your destination by the next day, if not on the next flight.
And now the issue of weight. If your bag is really heavy make sure the customer service agent tags it as heavy when you check it in. This will warn us on the ramp that we need to take extra care with that bag. The heavy tag will warn us to test the bag's weight before we just grab it and yank.
It also warns us that the bag would probably be better left
on the bin floor instead of lifted into a stack. Rampers are quite prone to back and shoulder injuries. When we pull on a heavy bag and it pulls back that can hurt. As professionals we try to take as much care as we can with every bag, but if you pack baggage that is likely to beat
us up, then we're likely to beat it up.
When it comes to handles, the more the better. The easier it is for us to get a hold of your luggage the less likely it is that we will beat up your luggage. One good trick is to put a strap around the middle of the case tightly enough to hold the case closed if it should pop open, but loosely enough that it can be grabbed by a gloved hand. I cannot stress enough the importance of handles. If I were a luggage designer I'd make sure my cases had a handle on every flat face, including the bottom.
If you like roller bags, and what serious traveller doesn't, make sure you get one for which the roller handle can be locked in the down position. Roller handles which pop up into the extended position when they shouldn't often get broken off.
If you use a "garment bag" -- you know, those bags that you put your clothing into and then fold in half -- make sure and get one which can be firmly secured into the folded position. Most of these bags also have a hook which is for hanging them in a closet. Make sure this hook can be
secured firmly inside the bag when it is not in use. When these hooks come loose in the baggage handling process they can cause all sorts of mayhem. They get caught in machinery and jam it. They get caught on other bags. They get caught on the airplane. And when they
get caught they usually break off. Sometimes when they break off they tear the bag, or they tear other bags.
Rampers have found all sorts of good uses for hooks that people have "donated" in this manner.
If your bag has a lot of zippers on it make sure they all get closed. Zippers which don't get secured catch on things and tear.
Do not put anything into a pocket which cannot be completely closed. Pockets which are secured with a single snap and do not have a flap are the worst offenders at this. Baggage Services usually has a large collection of small stuff which has fallen out of pockets such as this.
A lot of medicines, cellphone chargers, hair brushes, and various and sundry other small stuff can be found there. In the ramp office we have a large collection of toothpastes. Flotsam from these pockets is how we keep the maintenance department supplied with toothbrushes for parts cleaning. We figure once they've been on the ramp you really don't want to put them into your mouth again.
For you golfers out there, make sure and get a hard case for your clubs. Get one that not only has a handle in the middle, but also a handle on each end.
Finally, when you pack your colognes and perfumes make sure you pack them into something which will keep them closed and keep them from breaking before you put them into your bag. Same with anything aerosol. More than once I've gotten out of a bin smelling really Pretty. Even Beautiful.
While we appreciate your attempts to make the cargo holds smell better, the passengers you're flying with may have other ideas, so please keep your fragrances to yourselves.
-- Alan Petrillo