Transportation & Logistics

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A Shortage of New Luggage is the Latest Problem Facing the Travel Industry

14 Jul, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Forget toilet paper. Forget hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes or anything else. The most significant shortage facing the travel industry is luggage.

The restart of travel has left luggage sections of big box stores nearly empty, and has even put delays on the shipping of luggage ordered online.

And that creates a problem as sports travel restarts.

So who’s to blame for the problem? Well, 2020, naturally. And it created a perfect storm. Restrictions on trade and shipping disrupted the supply chain and led to a shortage of raw materials, which, combined with staffing shortages, has affected the ability of factories to produce products in the quantities needed. All combined, it has created a backlog in orders, which, naturally, results in shelves that need to be filled, says travel blog, The Points Guy:

“Metal production decreased greatly last year, due to pandemic-related shutdowns, and it has been slow to restart. Because supply is down — and because tariffs imposed by the previous U.S. government administration have limited less-expensive foreign competition — the price of steel has soared in recent months, The New York Times reports.”

Metal, needed for suitcase wheels, handles and zippers, as well as frames and other components, is going to be an enormous hangup until the pipeline returns to normal.

Something else that is affecting the luggage shortage is an inability to move goods to market. The American Trucking Association told TPG the pandemic has left the industry short-staffed.

“As one of the nation’s largest employers, the trucking industry faces myriad issues associated with recruiting, hiring, training and retaining its workforce – not the least of which is a shortage of qualified drivers that reached a new record high by the end of 2018,” noted the ATA’s website.

Additionally, just before the pandemic hit, many travelers had been considering upgrading to bigger bags with better features; however, COVID put the kibosh on travel and as a result, many purchases were put on hold.

With the vaccine came a sudden (and we do mean sudden) uptick in travel, particularly this summer – although count on it to continue as the country continues to reopen. As sports travel hits its stride once again, the need for new luggage will be more pronounced than ever – particularly as travelers find themselves with more to pack than ever before.

TPG notes that getting new baggage is apt to bring back those “first day of school” feelings.

“These days, the grown-up version of new school supplies for road warriors is getting a new suitcase. Whether you’ve been pining for an Away bag or saving your pennies to splurge on Rimowa, it’s hard to deny the excitement around investing in a new piece of luggage.”

Unfortunately, there’s one more thing compounding the problem – airlines’ continued (and in some cases worsening) strictures on baggage, that has fed into travelers’ desires to acquire new bags that are increasingly more portable, packable and expandable.

While Southwest allows two checked bags free of charge, it is the outlier. Most airlines still charge for checked bags – and some even charge for carry-ons. (TripAdvisor has compiled a list of airlines and their charges for baggage, including domestic and international costs, as well as any carry-on fees; that list can be found here).

In addition, some travelers, particularly those with sports equipment that outweighs commercial baggage restrictions, are increasingly moving toward baggage pick-up and delivery services, ads for which are proliferating on the web.

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