On a roll
We just want to thank you, you high roller you, for all your help over the years.
In this high-tech age when our phones check us into our flights, vacations are photographed by drone, and travelers checks have one the way of the dodo, it’s hard to imagine that, not too long ago, a suitcase was a cumbersome item with no stand-up handle to drag it by, and, before 1970, no wheels to glide on at all. For a little perspective, we put a man on the moon faster than it took to invent rolling luggage.
The now ubiquitous Rollaboard suitcase made its first appearance in 1987, after a resourceful Northwest Airlines 747 pilot named Robert Plath had the bright idea to turn his suitcase upright, add on a couple of extra wheels, and insert a pull-up handle.
Eventually, the rolling suitcase was usurped by Plath’s Rollaboard. Reportedly sick of lugging his bags through the airport, Plath founded the luggage brand Travelpro to sell his invention, and first won the approval of the aviation industry, marketing his product to airline crews and pilots. Just a few years later, the Rollaboard hit retail shelves across the U.S. Nowadays, Travelpro, which touts itself as “the choice of flight crews and frequent travelers” on its website, stocks hard-shell carry-ons, wheeled garment bags, four-wheeled spinners, and more. Of course, as great as Plath's invention was, there was plenty of room for improvement—and years of innovation ahead.
The rise of baggage fees has created a culture of carry-ons. Travelers are looking to fit everything they need in a smaller case and still be able to hoist it into the overhead bin. Do you want a padded laptop sleeve, built-in laundry bag, or a USB charger? An external water bottle holder or jacket hook? You got it in the bag!