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This summer’s holiday ‘it’ bag? A no

May 04, 2023May 04, 2023

Wheely cases be gone! The £15 Kono duffle bag is all over TikTok – and offers practical style at cabin size

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Nothing evokes summer wanderlust faster than a film peppered with glamorous luggage moments. In Rear Window, Grace Kelly travels with a sleek Mark Cross overnight case; in Spectre, James Bond uses a Globetrotter trolley bag; while even Harry Potter boards the Hogwarts Express with an embossed trunk.

The reality is a little harsher. Rather than sleek monogrammed cases and trolleys stacked neatly with leather portmanteaus, the bag you are most likely to see at the departure gates this year is a £15.99 polyester duffle sold on Amazon.

Dubbed the "under seat, carry-on bag" it measures just 35cm x 20cm x 20cm, meaning it meets the stringent sizing rules of airlines including Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air and British Airways.

Similar to the budget airlines, it's a no frills bag. The material is thin, it weighs 0.3kg, there is one mesh side-pocket and a handheld strap. Despite this, it has sold out multiple times across the shopping platform.

Like all modern day heroes, the bag first came to prominence on TikTok when user @franchescarosee posted a 50-second video of herself packing for a holiday last year, which has now been watched more than 2.5m times. As with Uniqlo's hit crossbody bag, it also has a seemingly magical ability to never run out of room: into the bag went four bikinis, multiple day and evening dresses, gym gear, sandals, loungewear, sunglasses, toiletries, hair straighteners, a small beach bag, various plug adaptors and chargers, a camera, and a laptop. "I honestly could have put so much in there as well," she says as she films herself en route to the airport.

Online the bag quickly earned the moniker "viral Ryanair cabin bag", with Amazon sellers even adding it into their product descriptions.

Twelve months later, the hashtag has been viewed more than 3m times, with masses of users uploading similar videos of themselves packing everything from Birkenstocks to duty-free-sized Toblerone bars.

Its popularity is perhaps unsurprising, given that navigating bag costs when flying is an arduous task.

Some airlines let you take on a bag that fits in the overhead locker for free, others charge a high fee – and some fees work out higher than the price of the flight itself. There's also often a 10kg weight limit, and considering some bags weigh half of that when empty, it doesn't leave much room for more than the essentials.

Anyone that has stood with a pile of books under one arm while piling clothing on to themselves like a game of Buckaroo to try and avoid an excess baggage charge will understand this specific type of pain/humiliation. Why not opt out of this baggage incubus altogether by choosing what is technically classed as a handbag? Best of all, the airlines charge nothing for it. Some even seem to be on board with the idea.

"Play by the rules we can be besties," reads a comment from the official Ryaniar TikTok account under a video of a user smugly sliding her bag into the luggage size-checker. "A prepared queen," reads another.

The viral bag (pictured above) represents a major shakeup to the world of luggage. For decades, a wheely suitcase has been the norm. They are often considered aspirational, with shots of celebrities gliding through the arrivals hall with designer luggage such as Louis Vuitton's Horizon case or Rimowa's aluminium version in hand.

On Keeping Up With the Kardashians, when boarding Kim's private jet – dubbed "Kim Air" – the family are filmed with staff ferrying a trolley of designer cases behind them. More recently came a slew of wheely-case brands targeted at the millennial market. In 2018, the New York Times asked whether Away's hard-shelled pastel pink version with an in-built phone charger was "the suitcase of the summer".

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Five years later – and despite fears that, post-pandemic, people would be wary of travelling – there's a "revenge travel" boom, with a significant increase in people wanting to make up for time and experiences lost.

Even the cost of living crisis hasn't slowed the effect, with money spent on flights and holidays rising in the first three months of 2023 compared to the previous year. However, there has been a change in the type of travel people are embarking on, with a shift towards low-cost airlines and shorter package holidays.

This has had a knock-on effect on the type of luggage needed, with brands finding more success with soft duffle-type bags. "Wheels are a bit clunky and can hold you back," says Michael Kushner, co-founder of Baboon to the Moon, a direct-to-consumer brand whose audience of "mostly 18- to 28-year-olds" rave online about its waterproof and neon-coloured Go-Bags.

"They don't want to look like a tourist," says Kushner. "We have a lot of people who talk about going right from the airport to a bar or restaurant. Carrying a soft bag, it's a little easier to be nimble."

Even Away has pivoted to an "outdoor line" featuring a five-day duffle bag, while Samsonite – loved by business travellers for its sturdy wheeled cases – has added a range of squashy bags.

Last year a combination of strikes, under-staffing and cancellations led to a 10-year high of lost luggage, with photos of suitcases piled up at airports around the world. This year experts say more strikes and even higher passenger numbers could lead to that number being topped. It's the perfect catalyst for the viral bag market. After all, there are few airport humblebrags bigger than the satisfaction of opting out of playing suitcase roulette at baggage reclaim.

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