An ode to a suitcase

I feel like talking about my suitcase, the TravelPro FlightCrew4 rollaboard. It’s a suitcase with wheels on it. Buy it. Put your stuff in it. Fly somewhere.

Look, if you get in an airplane once a year to visit your grandparents, you don’t need the FlightCrew4. You’ll do just fine with whatever cheap-ass piece of luggage you bought at Wal-Mart.

But about the time you’re on your sixth business trip of the year and the wheels on your suitcase start cracking and the zippers bind up and the zipper pull breaks off, you’re going to go luggage shopping. And you’ll read some reviews, and for the first time in your life, you find yourself seriously considering spending $500 for a wheeled box.

Because that’s what high-end rollaboards cost. And let me tell you, some of these suitcases come highly recommended. They get five star reviews from the sort of people who also post fifteen-paragraph reviews comparing the Bose QC-20 headphones with the Bose QC-25 headphones. These are suitcases with pedigrees.

You could spend five hundred bucks on a Briggs & Riley status symbol with a platinum-anodized tie rack. But don’t. Buy a FlightCrew4. It’s a  $150 suitcase with wheels on it. Put your stuff in it and fly somewhere.

The FlightCrew4 is made by the company that invented rollaboard suitcases. They’ve been iterating in the design for a long time. It shows. The handles are thickly and firmly padded. They are tensioned down tight to the surface of the bag, so they won’t catch on things. There’s a handle the top, bottom, and side, so you can grab your bag no matter which way you managed to jam it into the overhead.

The FlightCrew4 is the suitcase that actual flight crews use. That’s not just something they say in their marketing. You literally cannot buy this suitcase on Amazon. You have to shop at special online flight crew stores to find it.

Sure, TravelPro will be happy to sell you a consumer-oriented version of this bag for $250 on ordinary ecommerce sites. But don’t buy that one. Put on your plastic pilot wings the pilot gave you when you were six years old, and spend $150 on the FlightCrew4.

“But wait!” I hear you say. “For the same kind of money, I could just buy a nice Samsonite bag at my local Target!” Sure, you could. And after bits of it start falling off after your very first trip (and they will), you could pack your suitcase into a box and mail it to an “authorized repair center” a few states away. No, Samsonite won’t just ship you a replacement part. Ask me how I know.

Compare the FlightCrew4. You won’t see any rivets on this bag. Every external component on the FlightCrew4 is attached with big, sturdy screws (mounted flush so they don’t catch, of course.) This is because the FlightCrew4 is intended to be user-serviceable.

The FlightCrew4 does not have four fiddly little “glider” wheels on the bottom. You do not need glider wheels. You are not taking your suitcase slalom skiing.

Rollaboard size is strictly limited by airline standards, so glider wheels mean stealing precious inches of storage space from the bottom of the bag. Glider wheels mean more moving parts and many more points of failure. Ask me how many glider bags I’ve seen limping along on three wheels.

Instead, the FlightCrew4 has two big honking fixed wheels,  at the corners, where they don’t compromise storage space. They are mounted inside massive protective cowlings. These beasts eat cobblestones for breakfast.

Visually, the FlightCrew4 makes a statement. That statement is: “nothing to see here. Go steal that fancy Tumi bag.”

The FlightCrew4 has a metal frame and is covered in some of the sturdiest nylon I’ve seen. The zippers are substantial. The zipper pulls are large and sturdy. Every corner is armored against abrasion. The wheel end of the bag has a big, tough plastic skid plate. Go ahead, drag it up onto the sidewalk without lifting. The FlightCrew4 doesn’t care. The FlightCrew4 is serene.

The FlightCrew4 is not the lightest bag in the world. This doesn’t matter, because it has wheels. If you are anticipating going somewhere where the weight of your bag is a factor, you shouldn’t be shopping for a suitcase with wheels on it. You should be shopping for a backpack.

The TravelPro FlightCrew4 rollaboard. It’s a suitcase with wheels on it. Buy it. Put your stuff in it. Fly somewhere.