Crew luggage is a general term that describes the suitcases and roller bags used by airline professionals, particularly pilots and flight attendants. Most of the time, crew luggage is issued by an airline to its employees. Bags are small, and are usually designed to fit well with the plane’s carry-on bag size restrictions. Crew luggage is also typically very durable, and is designed to withstand years of near-constant use.
Nearly every airline in the world has strict restrictions about what sorts of bags can and cannot be brought aboard an aircraft. This is a factor both of cabin size and overall plane weight, and restrictions apply to customers as well as staff. Many airlines make baggage restriction rules easier on their employees by providing specialized crew luggage.
Assigned crew luggage also helps the airline present a streamlined look. Flight attendants and pilots wear uniforms in most circumstances. Having them carry matching luggage completes the look and lends a polished, professional front.
Pilot luggage and flight attendant luggage usually comes in several pieces and is often distributed as a luggage set. All components are designed to be carried on board the aircraft, and many are capable of attaching to each other in order to be more easily mobile. Flight crews are frequently on the move, and their luggage accordingly needs to be easy to maneuver from place to place.
For this reason, the vast majority of crew luggage is wheeled luggage — that is, luggage with wheels attached and expandable handles to allow staff to efficiently pull them to the next destination. Most bags come with wheels that rotate not only back and forth, but also side to side, in order to make quick movement even simpler.
Airline crews are often only on the ground for a single night — or sometimes only a few hours — at a time. The interiors of their bags must usually be well organized, enabling them to find the things that they need in a rush. Bags designed for airline use often come with internal compartments, which makes using crew luggage an organizational snap.
The outer construction is particularly durable, as well. Extensive travel can be tough on luggage. Constant movement, storage in overhead bins and under seats, and repeated packing and unpacking can weaken the integrity of many bags. Crew luggage is usually reinforced both with internal supports and more durable outer material.
Many travelers, particularly those who fly frequently, want the benefits of this luggage even though they are not airline staff. Few airlines will actually sell the bags that they provide for their employees. Many commercial luggage manufacturers sell crew-inspired products that meet many of the same size, efficiency, and durability standards.
These sorts of products are often marketed as professional luggage. They are usually made of the same or similar outer materials as crew luggage, and usually have a similar look, too. Buying crew luggage commercially often provides many more options than are available to airline employees, particularly as far as checked baggage is concerned. The cost is usually higher, but reinforced, super-durable bags do better in the rough and tumble world of airline travel than do most cheaper options.