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I need to take 2 big empty suitcases on a flight. Is there an increased risk of losing the suitcases? A couple of risks come to my mind:

  • Airport conveyor might not deliver big empty suitcases well. Maybe not enough traction or some other weight dependent mechanisms.
  • Airport personnel might would assume suitcase was sent by mistake
  • Maybe some regulation says that luggage has to have some minimum weight.

What do you think, is it safe for me to take along empty suitcases, or should I fill them with some garbage just in case ;) ?

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Depending on your jurisdiction, empty suitcases or ones filled with junk might raise some eyebrows of air security authorities. Isn't there really anything useful you could transport from A to B? –  mindcorrosive Jan 16 '12 at 22:10
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I'm also reminded of a joke about a French writer, keen on chemistry, who, in order to avoid duties for importing glassware, declared the goods to be containers for "genuine German air". –  mindcorrosive Jan 16 '12 at 22:12
    
For the background, I may have a visit to my home country. So I'd like to bring more clothes and other stuff from there. Instead of buying new suitcases (starting from $70), I could take my existing good suitcases. My other useful stuff would fit in my carry on bag. –  user44556 Jan 16 '12 at 23:55
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@mindcorrosive: President Scroob would be proud. –  Flimzy Jan 17 '12 at 3:10
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Can you put one of the suitcases inside the other? –  Abby T. Miller Jan 17 '12 at 16:29
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5 Answers 5

I have done this. I work in other country and annually travel to my home country. Sometimes I just brought empty luggage so I could fill it with goods/foods from my own country.

Let me answer

  • Airport conveyor might not deliver big empty suitcases well. Maybe not enough fraction or some other weight dependent mechanisms.

    I don't think that big empty suitcase will lead to this kind of error. Big suitcase tends to be heavier than small suitcase. And if small suitcase can be delivered, I'm quite sure that big empty suitcase should do the same.

  • Airport personnel. If they would assume suitcase was sent by mistake or so...

    Just put 1-2 T-shirt's in each of the luggage. It will solve this case.

  • Maybe some regulation says that luggage has to have some minimum weight...

    I have never read this kind of regulation. Since you pay for the luggage, the airline should not reject your luggage, no matter the weight. To them, empty luggage should be considered as profit, so they can put more luggage into the planes. But it would be good if you read your terms and conditions before you confirm your trip.

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One additional factor to consider is if your suitcases have sufficient structural rigidity to survive the trip empty. Some suitcases (especially lightweight ones) rely to some extent on the contents to provide some of the structural strength and could potentially have the metal framework bent if checked in empty.

Of course, this depends entirely on the type of suitcase you have. A hard shelled suitcase wold have no problem, but I would hesitate to check my ultra-light titanium framed suitcase in empty. I've watched the baggage handlers at several airports, they do not treat the luggage with kids gloves and your suitcase stands a good chance of having as many another 6-7 20 kilo suitcases piled on top of it.

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Very important point! –  Ankur Banerjee Jan 17 '12 at 14:55
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To airlines, weight is an expense. If you want to check two empty bags that pose them no problems and are allowed by the terms of your airline ticket or baggage fee, that's really your choice and your business.

You might have one or two specific airlines in mind for your trip. Why not call them and tell them about your situation? See if they have any advice.

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If you can fit one suitcase inside the other, you'll have no problem.

I've taken very a underpacked suitcase (to a conference where I was expecting major swag) and even been through secondary and had no comment about how empty it was. But I think completely empty would have raised some eyebrows. I have also taken a small extra carryon in my checked luggage and brought it home full. And on one occasion I did buy a very cheap ($30) suitcase and bring it home completely full. (BTW in all these cases I declared what I was bringing home to the customs people, who are less interested than you might think in conference tshirts or decades worth of photoalbums from a just-lost grandparent.)

I think the whole travel industry knows that sometimes we are bringing stuff to people or bringing stuff home from people and they're reasonably well set up for it. If you wanted to take only one bag, I would tell you to fill it 1/4 full and you'd be fine. Since you want to take two, choose a nesting pair and you will also be fine.

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I have two suggestions for you:

1) Take sports bags rather than suitcases, that can be scrunched up and placed in other bags.

2) Depending entirely on where you are going, contact a local aid agency, church or similar group to see if they need something transported there. Or ask your family to see if they want anything brought over.

Don't do the second for anyone you don't trust completely, and even then I would make sure you check the contents carefully yourself.

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