With air travel increasing from 2.2 billion passengers per year to over 3 billion between 2009 and 2014, major airlines are getting in on the affordable air fare “trend”. But when relieving one burden, airlines tend to create another – luggage fees are going through the roof. In fact, if you fly a cheaper charter flight to your destination, it’s likely you’ll have to pay at least $180 per suitcase on top of the price of the plane ticket!
With people struggling to figure out where to fit their possessions when they fly, one company has come up with an interesting solution to the suitcase conundrum. FUGU luggage is an Israeli Kickstarter campaign creating carry-on to full-size expandable luggage that serves many of the needs of the busy traveler on the go. FUGU also offers features like built-in-storage shelves, hangers and even a working table for the kind of people that literally live out of their suitcase. We know a number of people who would fit that description (thought they may not readily admit it), so it’s no wonder that the team has already raised $64,000, well past their $50,000 funding goal, in only a few days.
A solution for the modern international traveler
The project started when product designer and FUGU luggage CEO Isaac Atlas set out on an international business trip with only a carry-on in hand. His wife warned him that, come the end of the trip, he would need a full-sized suitcase to fit his purchases. Upon the day of return, Atlas was forced to admit that his wife was right (yet again), forcing him to buy a larger suitcase. So he created ‘FUGU’, named after the poisonous Japanese puffer fish that expands to three times its size.
However, it wasn’t just travel that inspired the design of FUGU luggage, it was something a bit more random. “Initially, Isaac thought of a box to store books in that would be adjustable in size. In order to achieve this, he started playing around with cereal boxes, and when it came time to design FUGU, he remembered this, putting the cereal box pieces together like origami so that the suitcase could expand,” says VP of Business Development Daniel Gindis told NoCamels.
The soon-to-be patent-protected FUGU luggage expands from a 40 by 50 centimeter hard plastic-covered carry-on to a height of 25-70 centimeters with a built-in electric pump. It has four 360 degree ‘omni’ wheels to allow for comfortable travel when the suitcase is pumped up to full size, and a wheeling advantage when its used as a carry-on. In addition, the long handle on the carry-on suitcase folds down to make rolling easier and it’s covered in colorful, light-weight and durable plastic to protect valuables. It also has a built-in table, shelves, and more, making FUGU “the ultimate suitcase,” according to Gindis.
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Despite our freedom to choose an airline and buy a ticket to nearly any location in the world, there is little freedom of choice in the world of luggage, which is why the FUGU team decided to try something new – a square suitcase. “The big innovation here is that the suitcase is not a rectangle, it’s a square and this came after a realization that we don’t really care what shape our suitcase is when it’s under the plane, but we do when we have to pack and unpack it. That’s when we began to ask why suitcases are designed rectangularly in the first place and to consider non-traditional features that travelers really need,” says Gindis.
This brought Gindis to suggest that they should add more features to make the FUGU travel experience complete. From built-in shelves for easy organization, to hangers, to a portable table that makes a great airport workspace, to a removable laptop case and stand, it seems that FUGU has got a lot covered. Gindis told NoCamels that the company plans to release additional features within the next week as part of its ‘stretch goals,’ which may include a temperature-controlled compartment and other optional features that he says makes FUGU “the Mary Poppin’s bag of suitcases.”
At least one notable downside of this product is the price. Due to the air-pumping technology involved, the expensive, light-weight plastic and other unique features, one piece of the expandable luggage and a built-in laptop case costs $245, about the price of a high-end suitcase, and it’s available in five different colors. Another downside could be the weight, though admittedly the extra features only add on about a pound. But the unique innovation and thought that went a product that smartly seeks to adapt to changes in air travel may be worth the extra bucks, and may even save you a few on excess baggage next time you’re at the airport.
Photos: Ariel Zandberg