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Last updated on May 22nd, 2024

Do airlines prefer hard or soft luggage?

While it may seem straightforward, the answer is more complex than you might think. It depends on various factors, including the durability, flexibility, and handling ease of the luggage.

Understanding Hardside and Softside Luggage

Before we dive into which type of luggage airlines prefer, let’s first understand what each type entails.

Hardside Luggage

Hardside luggage is made from durable materials like polycarbonate or ABS plastic. These materials offer excellent protection for your belongings, making them an ideal choice for carrying fragile items. Hardside luggage is also typically water-resistant and better equipped to withstand the rough-and-tumble world of airline handling.

However, hardside luggage does have downsides. It’s often heavier than its softside counterpart, which could be an issue if you’re trying to stay within airline weight limits. Moreover, hardside luggage lacks flexibility, making it harder to squeeze into tight spaces, including overhead compartments.

Softside Luggage

On the other hand, softside luggage is generally lighter and more flexible. This flexibility allows extra packing space if needed, making it a popular choice for over-packers. Softside luggage also often features exterior pockets, providing easy access to essentials like travel documents or snacks.

However, softside luggage does have its drawbacks. The most notable is that it lacks the protective shell of hardside luggage, making it more susceptible to damage, particularly when checked.

Since airlines have different policies and coverage amounts for damaged baggage, we recommend not going on holiday without travel insurance, especially if you fly with American Airlines, which lost or damaged the most bags in 2022 within the United States.

Do Airlines Prefer Hard or Soft Luggage?

airline illustration with passport and tickets

Airlines do not officially express a preference for either hard or soft luggage. Both types are accepted as long as your bag fits within their size and weight limits. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that soft luggage may fare better in the hands of baggage handlers due to its flexibility.

Why Might Airlines Prefer Soft Luggage?

While airlines don’t officially state a preference, there are reasons why they might favor soft luggage. For one, soft luggage tends to be easier for baggage handlers to manipulate and fit into the aircraft’s storage areas. Moreover, soft luggage can absorb shocks better than hard luggage, which could reduce the risk of damage to the contents.

Spotlight on Hardside Luggage: RIMOWA Review

Regarding hardside luggage, RIMOWA stands out as a top-tier brand. Known for their premium luggage, RIMOWA suitcases are crafted with high-quality materials like aluminum and polycarbonate, ensuring durability and stability.

One of the standout features of RIMOWA luggage is its distinctive grooved design. This adds aesthetic appeal and contributes to the suitcase’s rigidity. Despite being hardside, RIMOWA suitcases are remarkably lightweight, making them easy to handle during travel.

However, RIMOWA does come at a higher price point, reflecting their premium quality and design. If you’re a frequent traveler who values durability and style, investing in a RIMOWA suitcase could be worthwhile.

Spotlight on Softside Luggage: Tumi Review

If softside luggage is more your speed, Tumi is a brand worth considering. Tumi is known for its focus on functionality and durability, producing bags designed to withstand the rigors of frequent travel while still offering plenty of packing space.

Tumi’s softside luggage often comes with multiple compartments and pockets, making organization a breeze. They also feature high-quality wheels for smooth maneuverability. Though Tumi luggage is pricier than some other brands, the investment is often worth it for frequent flyers due to their longevity and practicality.

Why Do Pilots and Flight Attendants Travel with Softside Luggage?

Pilots and flight attendants often choose softside luggage because of its flexibility and ease of handling. These bags can easily be maneuvered through narrow airplane aisles and stowed in overhead compartments or under seats. Furthermore, the external pockets in softside luggage allow easy access to items like documents, electronics, or snacks.

Cabin Crew’s Choice: Travelpro

Travelpro, founded by Pilot Bob Plath, is often the go-to luggage brand for many airlines for their cabin crew. Known for its durable and functional softside luggage, Travelpro bags are designed with the needs of frequent travelers in mind.

The brand’s focus on durability, maneuverability, and convenience makes it a top pick for those who spend much time in the air. The wheels on Travelpro bags are particularly noteworthy, as they are designed for smooth rolling and easy maneuverability.


While airlines do not explicitly state a preference for hard or soft luggage, softside luggage might have a slight edge due to its flexibility and ease of use. However, it’s important to note that softside bags are damaged more easily than hardside suitcases when checked. Choosing between hard or soft luggage depends on your needs and preferences.

Frequent travelers might consider brands favored by professionals, such as RIMOWA, Tumi, and Travelpro. Regardless of your choice, remember that the best luggage suits your travel needs and lifestyle the best.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Size Luggage Do Airlines Prefer?

Most airlines allow carry-on luggage up to 22 x 14 x 9 inches, including handles and wheels. However, these dimensions may vary slightly among airlines, so it’s always best to check the airline’s baggage policy before your trip.

How Can I Protect My Luggage from Damage?

Consider using a luggage cover or investing in a hardshell suitcase to protect your luggage from damage. Additionally, avoid overpacking, as this can pressure the zippers and seams, leading to potential damage.

Can I Take Two Bags as Carry-On?

Typically, airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item (like a laptop bag, purse, or small backpack). The carry-on bag must fit in the overhead bin, while the personal item must fit under the seat before you.

However, airline policies vary, so be sure to check your airline’s specific rules.

Is It Better to Roll or Fold Clothes in Luggage?

Rolling clothes can help prevent wrinkles and save space in your luggage. However, folding might be a better option for bulkier items like sweaters or jeans. Experiment with different packing methods to find what works best for you.

Liya Kravchenkin
About the Author: Liya Kravchenkin

Liya Kravchenkin is an experienced portrait photographer. She has worked with clients worldwide and has even traveled to more than 50 countries. Liya loves photography because it allows her to capture a moment that can never be repeated. Liya also enjoys traveling, learning about new cultures, and seeing the world’s unique natural wonders. Her favorite travel memories are from swimming with dolphins in the Galapagos and eating cheesecake in New York City.

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