I have to buy new luggage very frequently when I'm using airlines. About every two flights, I'm receiving my luggage cracked, with ripped off wheels and handles. Even if this is just bad luck, this is happening to everyone eventually, I assume. What am I supposed to do to prevent this from happening? I don't think that more expensive, more solid suitcases would help.
Some businesses within airports offer a shrink-wrapping service to wrap your luggage in a thick layer of plastic.
Reason 1: Protects Against Theft
We will always recommend that anything of value should be brought in your carry-on, but if you have to check something of value, wrapping your luggage may prevent sticky fingers. It may not be endemic in North American or European airports, but has been widely reported in some Asian and African airports. One FlyerTalk member told the story of his belongings being pilfered at the Johannesburg airport. Wrapping up your luggage isn’t a guarantee that your stuff will be left alone, but it is a deterrent.
Reason 2: Tattle-Tales on Tampering
If someone does go through your bag, you’ll know it. You might not be able to do anything about it, but at least you’ll know your bag got someone’s curiosity peaked.
Reason 3: Keeps Your Bag Together
On one trip, I discovered my bag’s main zipper would no longer stay put. The bag wasn’t busting at the seams, but the zipper would continually open just enough for me to worry. For my return trip home, I used a TSA lock and a key ring to keep my bag together. On another trip, I realized my bag had a small rip in it just before a flight. Wrapping your luggage in plastic could solve both of these problems, keep everything in its rightful place, and give you some piece of mind.
Reason 4: Prevents Any Stowaways
If you’re the paranoid type, wrapping up your luggage could prevent any unwanted items from finding their way into your baggage. There are a very few and rare cases where passengers became drug mules unknowingly, and we’re not here to fear monger, but if you worry about it, then you may want to protect your bags.
Reason 5: Protects Against Damage
A thin layer of plastic surrounding that nice, new bag of yours can help keep it looking great. Luggage handlers don’t wear white gloves and treat every bag like the Stanley Cup. And if rain and snow have you concerned as you wave goodbye to your checked bag, certainly your bag will be outside in the elements and get soaked before it’s loaded on the plane. Keep your luggage scuff-free and dry by wrapping it.
There's no reason why you couldn't spend a few minutes wrapping your luggage in food wrap (or bribing children to do it for you), then cut holes for wheels/handles as required. It might not save luggage from severe damage, but could prevent minor damage.
Of course, TSA/Security might want to inspect the insides, but that's why they carry box-cutters....
What kind of damage occurs?
Anecdotally thorough travelling over the years, I've stopped using hard shelled suitcases and now use fabric spinners from... known brands. Some of my lower range suitcases did have some damage to it (like a zipper breaking off), but generally, they hold up very well. Some damage I expect, like bruises, but I've never had issues with wheels ripping off or the main handles.
It might be a case of both, some bad luck and some unfortunate choices of luggage - not that I mean that the most expensive is the answer, but more mid range perhaps would do it.
I once bought a 300$ Samsonite, and it cracked on the first flight, and I lost half the content. Since then I use duffelbags, and nothing ever happened to them (I’m by now a million miler).
The point - I recommend to go with flexible, soft luggage pieces, which don’t care if they are thrown around. If there is nothing to break off or crack, nothing will.
You cannot control how they are handled, and they are handled rough, always. You can only prepare by having luggage that can take it.
Ask while checking in your luggage to mark it as "Fragile" with a sticker. At least they would be less likely to throw it around.