Regardless of whether you are traveling for business, going on holiday, or just visiting friends and family, usually you do not have to worry about your suitcase. A damaged suitcase, however, can ruin your entire trip. Many ask themselves if their suitcase can be repaired, how much such a repair may cost and if it is even worth repairing the damage. In this article we hope to answer the following questions regarding luggage repairs:
- What parts of a suitcase can be repaired?
- Is it worth repairing a suitcase or should you just purchase a new suitcase?
- What repairs can I do myself and for what repairs should I seek professional assistance?
- What tools and parts do I need to perform the repair?
- How long does it take to perform the repair?
- What can I do if there are no longer spare parts available for my suitcase?
What parts of a suitcase can be repaired?
Most suitcases sold today have been designed to be easily repairable in case of damage. For this purpose, most parts of the suitcase are attached to the shell using screws which can be removed to perform the repair. To access these parts most suitcases, have a maintenance zipper in the middle of the suitcase lining to allow access to the components.
If a damage can be repaired always depends on the exact type of damage but the following should provide you with a general overview.
Damages that can be repaired:
- Telescopic Handles
- Zipper Pullers (if the zipper slider and zipper chain are undamaged)
- Other parts which are available for purchase as separate spare parts
- Zipper sliders which have been separated from the zipper chain (which must be still intact)
Damages that cannot be repaired:
- Dents in the shell
- Cracks in the shell
- Parts of components e.g., only entire wheels can be replaced not parts of a wheel
- Damages to the fabric for softshell suitcases
- Ripped off carry handles on softshell suitcases
- Damages to the fabric for softshell suitcases
- Damages to the reinforcement plates of softshell suitcases (e.g., on the bottom)
- Damages to the interior fabric
- Suitcases with rivets where the material surrounding the rivet (e.g., Polycarbonate or Aluminum) has been damaged
This is of course only a short list of examples of what damage can be repaired. For a more comprehensive list of available repairs please check our detailed guide regarding what damage can be repaired.
Is it worth repairing a suitcase or should you just purchase a new suitcase?
Deciding whether it is worth trying to repair your damaged suitcase or not depends mostly on the extent of the damage and the availability of spare parts to perform the repair. In case only one component e.g., one wheel is damaged and if the spare part is available, it typically makes more sense to repair the suitcase compared to purchasing a new item.
Another thing you must consider is the frequency of damage and how old the item already is. Typically, after a time frame above 10 years it cannot be ruled out that certain plastics get more brittle (depending on storage conditions) so that damage is more likely. At the same time after such a long period only a few spare parts may still be available. In such cases it may be worth considering doing an early replacement of your suitcase. This may not only reduce damage but also add more comfort to your travels.
Do I have to pay to repair my suitcase?
When purchasing a suitcase many brands offer a manufacturer’s warranty which goes beyond any consumer rights you may have under the applicable law. In most cases, however, such warranties only cover material and production defects e.g., when the seam is faulty or if the handle material is brittle after a very short time. Damages which are caused by regular usage, wear and tear or traveling by train, bus or plane are typically not covered by such warranties, which means that you would have to pay for any repair cost.
In the case your luggage is transported by a third party such as an airline or a cruise ship company the transporting company is typically liable for repairs which occurred while handling your luggage. For air travel such compensation is regulated in the Montreal Agreement. Please note however that airlines will not be responsible for damage which is caused by the specific nature of the luggage or prior damage. In case your suitcase got damaged by an airline or cruise ship company the first step is always to report the damage to the company.
Reporting a damage to the airline / cruise ship company
To seek compensation from an airline or cruise ship company after your suitcase has been damaged the first and most important step is to report the damage to the airline.
Recommendation: When picking up your luggage always check it for damage immediately.
Generally, you should try to report any damage you have identified on your suitcase before leaving the terminal building. At many airports the counter for damaged baggage is located together with the counter for lost luggage. Depending on the airline, airport, and time of arrival, the counter for damaged baggage might not be manned. In such cases we still recommend visiting the counter and checking if there is any phone number indicated to call and document the damage with pictures. You should report the damage by email or phone as soon as this is possible after arrival. Many airlines require damages to be reported within 7 calendar days, however each airline or cruise ship company has their own regulations. Some cruise ship companies even require reporting the damage before leaving the terminal building to be eligible for compensation.
What happens after I have reported a damage of my suitcase to an airline or cruise ship company
After reporting the damage to the airline, you will typically receive a case number from the airline which will forward your case to a specialized repair service provider which has a contract with the airline. At the next step the repair service provider from the airline will reach out to you to organize a repair or replacement of your luggage. Some airlines and cruise ship companies also allow you to choose a repair company of your own choice and will repay you the expenses from the repair. Whether a repair is possible (and financially viable for the airline) or if a replacement is required depends typically depends on the availability of spare parts for your suitcase model.
What happens if the airline cannot repair my suitcase?
In cases where the damage is too significant or if a repair is not possible the airline / repair service provider of the airline will organize a replacement of the suitcase. The value of the replacement item will depend on the original purchase price of the suitcase, the age of the item and the airline. On this basis the airline will calculate the time value of the suitcases. Depending on the airline the loss of value for each year of usage might be between 10% and 20% of the purchase price. The exact calculation of the time value varies between airlines and the contracts they have with insurance companies.
Example: For a 7-year-old suitcase for which you have paid € 169 in the store you might be eligible for a replacement item worth € 50,70 if the airline assumes a loss of value of 10%. More restrictive airlines assuming a loss of 20% / year may assume the item to be without value and may only compensate a small amount as a matter of courtesy.
Based on the time value the repair service provider has calculated for your item you may be offered a replacement item matching this price. To replace the item with a new item of similar value the repair service provider may ask you to pay the difference between the airline compensation amount and the retail price of the replacement item.
Important: In many cases you will be asked to select a replacement item. We recommend comparing the prices of the replacement items with market prices and requesting a cash payout of the compensation amount if necessary.
My airline has asked me to provide a damage certificate from a luggage dealer or repair workshop – where can I get such a document?
When it comes to repairing or replacing damaged baggage some airlines and cruise ship companies request customers to provide a damage report or damage certificate from a luggage dealer or professional luggage repair workshop. This is often done to ensure that the product is indeed no longer repairable and to receive an estimate of the age and approximate retail price to calculate the value of a replacement item or issue a compensation payment.
Such document will typically state the name and address of the luggage dealer / repair workshop, the type of product which has been presented, a description of the item including manufacturer, item type, size/dimensions as well as a description of the damage. Most importantly such certificate will provide a conclusion regarding the repairability e.g., that the cost of a repair would exceed the retail price of the product, that the product can no longer be repaired as the spare parts are unavailable or that the damage is not repairable stating the approximate product age and selling price.
In case the airline accepts your compensation claim the cost of the damage report (typically around € 15) will also be refunded to you by the airline.
How to recycle a suitcase?
Many are wondering how to recycle a suitcase. Either as it is damaged beyond repair or simply as you have decided to upgrade to a new suitcase.
In case the suitcase is still in good condition and fully functional you may consider donating it to charity. For damaged suitcases you will have to take them to a nearby landfill or recycling center.
Important: In most countries it is not possible to recycle a suitcase together with other household waste. Depending on your country a special collection for bulky waste may be available.
In some cases, it is also possible to return the suitcase to the brand directly for disposal. If your brand offers such a service, please kindly check the brand website.
What repairs can I do myself and for what repairs should I seek professional assistance?
If you can repair your suitcase by yourself or if you should seek professional assistance from a luggage repair company depends on the type of repair, you are looking to perform and the type of luggage you own.
For suitcases where the components are attached to the shell using screws (visible from the inside after opening the maintenance zipper) most repairs can be performed by yourself at home with the correct spare parts. This typically includes components such as wheels, locks, carry handles (hard-shell suitcases only), and the trolley handle.
For suitcases which use rivets (small metal bolts which usually have a rounded head which is visible on the outside of the suitcase) to attach the components to the suitcase a repair is more complicated. Such repairs require removing the rivets by using a drill, replacing the spare parts, and inputting new metal or plastic rivets. As these types of repairs require specialized equipment such repairs should be done in professional repair workshops. Our repair service team can give you recommendations if you are looking for a workshop which can give you assistance in such cases.
Repairs involving the zipper pullers require a certain degree of delicacy to avoid damage to the zipper slider. For other zipper repairs e.g., if the zipper puller is separated from the zipper chain, you will have to visit a professional repair shop. Additionally, for any repairs which require sewing we recommend contacting a repair shop to avoid any injuries.
What tools and parts do I need to perform the repair?
In case the spare parts of your suitcase are attached using screws all you need for the repair is a matching screwdriver. Depending on the component you are looking to replace you may need multiple different sizes of screwdrivers. For replacements of the zipper pullers pliers and a never might be also required. Our repair guides will give you detailed instructions on how to perform the repair and what tools you need to each repair.
Most importantly however are the matching spare parts. For this it is essential that you find spare parts which fit your suitcase exactly. As suitcase spare parts are customized for each model there are unfortunately no universally usable wheels. For many models you can find matching spare parts on suitcase.repair simply by searching for the model number of your suitcase. Alternatively, you can try contacting the brand from which you have purchased the item to check if spare parts are still available.
How long does it take to perform the repair?
Simple repairs which can be performed at home e.g., exchanging a wheel (if the wheel is attached using screws) can be performed in as little as 5 minutes. More complex repairs such as replacing the telescopic handle may take 15-20 minutes. Our repair guides will give you detailed instructions on how to perform the repair and the estimated time you need to perform the repair.
For repairs performed by professional repair workshops repairs can take as long as 1-2 weeks or even longer based on their current workload. Please also be aware that it be necessary to send the item by parcel to the repair service provider.
What can I do if there are no longer spare parts available for my suitcase?
For items where there are no longer spare parts available from the brand itself or professional spare part dealers like suitcase.repair it will be very difficult to still find matching parts. As you might need to try numerous different parts to find a matching spare part the cost can easily exceed the cost of a new item.
In such cases you can however still try purchasing a damaged or intact suitcase which is identical to yours on platforms like eBay or other platforms for classifieds and take the spare parts from this second suitcase to repair your item.