The History Of Rolling Luggage

June 17, 2010 by · 8 Comments 

They say Necessity is the mother of invention. That means Convenience must be the father.

Northwest Airlines pilot and Travelpro founder Bob Plath needed a easy way to transport his bags through busy airports. He invented one, the Rollaboard®, and became the father of rolling luggage.

Before Plath’s brainchild, all luggage was oriented horizontally. Everyone made do with heavy, inflexible suitcases with handles on top which had to be carried through airports. The only other option was a horizontal model featuring four small wheels and a strap for pulling, like a stubborn dog that collided with your heels when he was angry. But, the poor balance and ergonomics of these bags limited their appeal.

Then, in 1987, Bob Plath went into his garage and designed a vertical bag with two wheels and an extendable handle that he could roll through airports and carry on airplanes. He called his creation the Rollaboard® and was soon selling them to fellow pilots and flight attendants.

By 1989, when passengers began asking airline personnel where they could buy rolling suitcases, Plath moved his operation out of his garage and into a 185,000 square foot warehouse. By 1991, Plath had retired from Northwest Airlines and focused full-time on the device that changed travel in a number of fundamental ways:

Airport security procedures and equipment were standardized to accommodate the wildly popular rolling carry-on.

Over time, airlines reconfigured their fleets with overhead storage bins that could hold the new carry-ons.

The struggling luggage industry was revived as travelers replaced old horizontal luggage with the much easier-to-use Rollaboards. Travelpro enjoyed double-digit sales growth for nearly a decade after the introduction of the product and was one of the fastest growing private companies in America during the 90′s. The tourism industry also received a boost as travel was simplified for everyone, regardless of their conditioning or physical limitations.

Most people now pack far fewer items when they travel. If it doesn’t fit in the carry-on, it doesn’t go on the trip.

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel in order to revolutionize travel and positively impact the lives of millions of people worldwide. You just have to attach wheels to something, and voila!You’re a revolutionary.