Essential Travel Companions #1
Hidden Extras: airline passengers strike back with wearable luggage
Airlines have spent the last few years introducing sneaky extra charges relating to baggage, credit card processing, online check in and anything else they believe may boost their “ancillary revenues”.
In these times of petty baggage rules and excess charges, it’s time for passengers to fight back with a few “hidden extras” of their own… and this is where garments that carry personal items through check-in, without being weighed, are set to become popular. Strange as it may seem, as far as airlines are concerned, if you’re wearing your luggage, rather than carrying it, then it doesn’t fall under the terms (and dimensions) of the 10kg cabin baggage allowance.
We started off by testing a M&S pocket scarf at Newcastle Airport’s check-in – ideal for stashing a couple of novels and a few garments into the ends. Nobody noticed the stuffed pockets… but we needed more space…
We then checked out a garment specially designed for air travellers: the Rufus Roo big pocket travel jacket.
Designed by a team of three male entrepreneurs and an Antipodean student from the London College of Fashion, who took her inspiration from the red kangaroo, the Rufus Roo is a synthetic waistcoat with multiple zippy pockets, designed to take up to 10kg of weight. The passenger can stash a whole host of items in the pockets – even A4 files, laptops and shoes. As it’s ostensibly a garment and not a bag, it gives passengers a cunning extra baggage ‘allowance’ that even over-zealous Ryanair won’t apprehend at check-in. In a TV interview, Stephen McNamara of Ryanair said they’re not going to ban the R00.
We decided to road-test the ‘big pocket travel jacket’ on a domestic flight between Gatwick Airport and Newcastle Airport.
With a waistline expanded by about half a metre on each side and a mid-length coat worn over the top, for the sake of practicality (it’s cold Up North!), we ventured to Flybe check-in. A friend was deployed in her car at passenger drop-off, directly outside the airport, just in case our ‘experiment’ failed and we ran into problems with the extra weight. But it was thumbs up for the Rufus Roo jacket: the check-in assistant didn’t bat an eyelid at the ‘obese’ passenger with the bulging waistcoat.
With the check-in hall behind us, the Rufus Roo jacket progressed easily through the scanning system at security – it simply went into a tray along with the cabin bag.
After security, it was time to drape the Rufus Roo over one shoulder: it folds over nicely and hangs like a bag, which is one of its admirable features. An assistant in the Boots concession at Gatwick’s Terminal 2 was suitably impressed by its versatility.
Before reaching the departure gate, the Rufus Roo jacket was donned once again to avoid any accusations re having “multiple bags”. If it proves unwieldy over one shoulder for a walk-about the terminal, because it contains 10kg of weight, the Rufus Roo could be placed insider a carrier bag and carried that way until it’s time to board the plane.
We only had one issue with our Rufus Roo ‘road test’: the heating system in Gatwick Airport had been cranked up full and our intrepid tester almost baked at the gate, thanks to the extra kilos worn around the top half of her body. However, this isn’t a fault of the Rufus Roo: the management at Gatwick clearly likes to create The Bahamas before anybody has departed from Surrey.
So, our verdict: a resounding success for the Rufus Roo big pocket travel jacket. OK, so you’re not going to score any points from the fashion police and Ryanair brushed off the Roo as being “somewhat embarrassing” – but who really cares about looking like a catwalk queen if a wearable luggage product is going to avoid a hefty fine at check-in? We think it is a practical, money-saving accessory for frequent flyers and those who are fed up with airlines’ profiteering baggage practises.