This post begins with a simple observation: airline baggage handlers are hard on luggage. For all that I joke about letting a friend stow away in a bag on a neat trip, I would never subject them to the handling I can only imagine checked luggage undergoing.
My main checked bag is a Victorinox rolling case that I acquired at REI almost three years ago before my first trip to Australia. Since then, I have traveled a lot. My back of the envelope calculation is that the bag has flown with me on around 250,000 miles of flights, and it has suffered at the hands of the airlines. Part of the reason that I chose Victorinox was the Carry with Confidence guarantee, which covers damage from airline mishandling (or is that regular airline handling?).
At this point, less than three years into the bag’s service with me, it has several major problems. First, the handle split. While I can work around this by holding the split handle closed, it does require somewhat more force than is necessary and is quite tiring over long distances. Also, as you can see in the photo below, the soft rubber grip has detached from the handle and flops around so that it no longer provides cushioning.
Second, the zipper that holds the expansion frame in place had a couple of zipper teeth fail, and it’s impossible to unzip. I think the problem here is that the expansion zipper is on a corner of the bag, and it got bashed in the bowels of an airport bag handling system.
Around the handle well, there’s a small plastic rim that protects the edge of the fabric. It’s shattered off on my bag, leaving the fabric loose, where it can easily be caught in the bag handling machines in the future.
Finally, there’s also a jam on the main zipper. The jam occurs on a corner, so I assume that some machine decided to bite off the corners of some of the zipper teeth. It is not possible to drag a slider through the jam, even though the zipper is designed to be self-healing.
On the same flight where the main zipper developed a jam, one of the sliders completely detached from one of the two zipper tracks:
Fortunately for me, REI sells quality equipment. The Victorinox guarantee covers aggressively bad airline handling and hungry airport luggage transport systems. (Interestingly, it applies to my Werks Traveler 2.0 bag, but not its 3.0 successor.) Immediately after checking in to the hotel, I pulled out my camera, took the pictures that appear in this post, and contacted Victorinox by e-mail. They responded with a return authorization number within an hour, and I sent the bag back to them for repair. They received the bag this morning; I’ll blog about any further updates.
What I’ve learned from this experience is that there’s a huge range among manufacturers on warranty service. Any manufacturer can offer a lifetime warranty, but the key is what they exclude and how easy it is to take advantage of their services. Victorinox was very easy to deal with by e-mail, and I had a return authorization before I returned to the USA. My main carry-on bag is a Travelpro that I purchased ten years ago. It has held up fairly well, and it also has a “lifetime warranty.” Unlike Victorinox, claiming service requires my original purchase receipt and, in case I might have retained my original receipt, the pieces of paper enclosed with the bag when it was new! When I replace it, probably later this year, I will be buying from a company that actually lets me use its guarantee.