Enough: Cathay Pacific Staff Ordered To Attach “Fragile” Sticker To All Rimowa Suitcases Due To Excessive Damage Reports

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Cathay Pacific has reportedly ordered it’s ground staff to attach a FRAGILE sticker to each of the popular Rimowa suitcases that are checked in by the passenger due to expensive claims.

The move comes after the airline sees itself confronted with many expensive baggage claims from customers whose Rimowa suitcases have been damaged during the journey.

Cathay Pacific tries to fight against having to pay out high compensation amounts or replacements for these suitcases which (in the Aluminum version) can cost well beyond US$1000 depending on where they are marketed.

A corresponding article in the South China Morning Post (access here) reported about this move by Cathay.

A spike in damage claims for Rimowa suitcases has prompted Cathay Pacific Airways to order its staff to add a “fragile” tag to them, citing the “high cost” of such compensation. …

“Over the last six months, there [has been] a significant increase in damage claims for ‘Rimowa’ branded suitcases across the network,” the Hong Kong flagship airline said in a memo to staff on March 20.

According to the note, “feedback from a number of airports” had indicated “challenges around warranty-based repairs” which factored into a high replacement cost for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon.

The memo added that airline staff had to apply a “fragile” tag to the Rimowa suitcases “with the aim to reduce the number of damage reports and the associated cost”. The airline hoped the move would “improve the travel experience of those customers”. …

The pricey damage claims have come into sharper focus as the airline tries to turnaround the business from a HK$575 million loss last year. Part of that effort includes a planned HK$4 billion in cost savings over three years, with half of the amount by the end of 2017.

Rimowa suitcases are indeed very popular and extremely expensive in it’s high end versions on top of it. The suitcases are available in a Polycarbonat and Aluminum with prices between US$500-1500 depending on the size and model.

They are especially sought after in Asia especially Japan, China and Hong Kong by those affluent enough to afford them. It’s obviously no secret that there are plenty of wealthy people (at least affluent enough to purchase such goods) around these countries and Cathay Pacific has a large customer base in mainland China.

I can say from personal experience that especially the Aluminum versions of the bags get damaged quite often and mostly due to ill treatment by the baggage handling staff employed by the airport or airline. Transporting baggage is a rough and tough job for all involved and it’s unavoidable that the suitcases get dents but sometimes it’s more than your average tiny dent or scratch.

I have claimed Rimowa suitcases with airlines multiple times and indeed it was always a very generous compensation especially back in the day when Rimowa was a somewhat exotic brand and repair shops weren’t everywhere like it is the case now.

Conclusion

Without a doubt Cathay Pacific is trying to save money here and that’s a valid point BUT I highly doubt that the treatment of these suitcases will improve in any significant way by the attachment of a “Fragile” sticker. Whoever believes that must live in a dream world. Considering the amounts of Rimowa baggage it’s not long until these stickers lose their significance entirely and even seriously fragile baggage, that with breakable items inside will be disregarded by the baggage handlers.

I always try to see the cause of things and when it comes to damaged on expensive suitcases it’s a very simple mixture of things. For one the indeed fragile nature of some baggage, then the job of baggage handling itself which isn’t exactly a delicate procedure. And then you have the blatant abuse of baggage by some staff that considers these items “rich peoples toys” and intentionally treat it rough. There have been videos on Youtube and other online sources for years showing how badly baggage is treated. I don’t expect any result from this measure, at least not in the long run.

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  • patjem2

    I had the same problem with the non-aluminum version. Already have 5 suitcases damaged/replaced. It seems there is always an issue when Amsterdam/Schiphol/AMS is in the route.

    • superduper

      it is the luggage handlers’ fault, which is why cathay it trying to curb the excessive damage to rimowas.

      if this does not work, i am sure cathay will look find fault with the handlers.

  • Christian

    Last year, Cathay damaged my wife’s polycarbonate suitcase. It’s not a Rimowa, but they did a very nice repair job.

    • superduper

      as they should.. which is why when u buy an air ticket, there is an insurance portion. you paid for the insurance already. nothing wrong with claiming it when the airlines damage your goods.

  • Stefan_In_Vienna

    Every trip I take there is one or more new dents in my midsize Topas (costs new about € 800). I consider them “patina” and don’t claim on the dents. Different thing is, if they break off one of the wheels, as happened flying on TK recently. If putting a “fragile” sticker on there reduces the damages caused, I’m all for it, but like Sebastian I doubt it’s effectiveness.

  • Jamo

    I bought a Rimowa suitcase around 7 years ago, drawn by the quality and profile of the product. I watched it gradually get pounded over a 1 year period into something that looked cheap and old. Dints everywhere, the lock broke as the seals stopped lining up properly, then the wheels.

    I do not believe this is a sensible choice of suitcase for any frequent flyer. It’s okay moaning at airlines about the damages caused to it by throwers at various airports, but that aside you need to be pragmatic. Even with the most careful handlers in the world, bags get dings and bump into things all the time. There are miles and miles of conveyor belts in every airport that drop, shunt, push, lift etc. It’s metal on metal in places or hard vulcanized rubber. Fabric can naturally absorb impact to an extent. Metal to metal cannot.

    I completely feel sorry for anyone having bought such a beautiful case and seeing it damaged, but if I were Cathay Pacific or any other airline for that matter, if I could get away with it, I’d outright refuse to accept these bags completely. They’re an accident waiting to happen.

    • My Victorinox black 22 lasts for about three/four years (million or so miles). It is carry-on that I sometimes need to check. I agree that Rimowa should not be bought for checking it in. Could be reasonable choice for those that travel just with carry-on.

  • Smorgasbord

    I know Rimowa is desired for its light weight, but in my view luggage should be required to meet a certain durability spec. I travel twice weekly and my TravelPro, Samsonite, Vittorinox, and Delphy suitcases all have done fine over the years. I also own about a dozen vintage suitcases from the 1920s-1960s. Whether they be rawhide, canvas, hemp, caribou, etc. they are lovely but I would not dare check any of them in. They’re decoration or the occasional car road trip if we’re going to a vintage hotel.

    While I was in school (1970s), I worked as a luggage handler one summer. We didn’t pick out expensive bags to abuse – we admired them. But, if a bag was heavier than it should have been, well, better to save our backs than the suitcase. BTW, the most fun was opening up 747 containers from Japan. Those were packed with such organization and care, we’d literally pause and admire it each time one was opened – and then we’d pull the bags out. We didn’t pack the containers going to Japan as nicely, we were in too much of a rush.

  • David

    Don’t see why airlines should bear the blame for such wear and tear on these over-priced status symbols when the materials are not up to the exposure they’ll receive in the normal course of travel. Rather than a fragile sticker I’d suggest airlines turn it around and have owners of such luxe bags sign a damage waiver. Those who can afford such luggage can afford to repair or replace them (or have their travel insurance pay). I’ve been doing 200K of flying a year for several decades and am quite happy with rugged fabric bags that seldom cost more than $200 (if that) and last years. The only damage beyond scuffs I’ve encountered has been a case of a wheel breaking off. The only Rimowas I own are the amenity kit minis from LH, TG and EvaAir.

    • superduper

      you wear a t shirt to travel, and the air waitress spills coffee over it. it is your fav t shirt.

      i wear a kiton suit to travel and the air waitress spills coffee over it. it is my fav suit.

      does it matter if it is a t shirt or suit? it is the airline’s fault. pay for the drycleaning!

      should i have a sticker on my suit that says “Fragile, expensive suit, be careful”?

      • David

        A $20 dry cleaning tab is a lot different from a $200 luggage repair or $800 replacement charge. (And your analogy doesn’t really hold because one would normally remove the suit jacket and have only the pants and a shirt exposed.) You can choose to dress as you wish and take the consequences…spilled drinks happen very rarely as there are factors that control this. The checked luggage process is not a delicate one and that should be understood when making a choice of what bag to purchase and use. That’s why certain brands use highly resistant materials while others are purely status symbols that may be far more delicate and not designed for the wear and tear of normal travel. While it may be a few pennies on my ticket, why should I pay to repair your $800 status symbol that was never designed for the rigours of travel in the first place?