Company to introduce "flying luggage"

New bags to improve airplane fuel efficiency and safety

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. -- Backed by a $3.6 million grant from the International Federation of Airlines (IFA), an airline trade association representing 34 of the world's largest carriers, Tumi Inc. has begun development of a new line of luggage specifically designed for airline travel.

According to Johanna Rothersham, a spokesperson for the company, the luggage will incorporate cylinders of lighter-than-air gas and inflatable pockets. When the gas is allowed to fill the pockets, the bags will lift from the ground and float in the air.

"With just the right amount of gas," said Rothersham, "a bag will become neutrally buoyant, allowing passengers to simply guide their luggage along without having to lift, carry or roll their bags. What's more, once stored in the overhead luggage compartments of aircraft cabins, extra gas can be dispersed into the bags actually assisting the airplane during takeoff and helping it remain airborne. Consequently, airlines will be able to save on fuel costs and at the same time introduce another measure of passenger safety."

Of the problems yet to be worked out with the IFA are how to transport checked bags along conveyor systems, how to pass carry-on bags through security, how to keep inflated bags from blowing away on the tarmac or sidewalk and how to keep small children from floating off while holding the luggage.

Tumi is expecting roll out—or float out—the new luggage early next year. The company has also reported that it is in negotiations with Tyra Banks for her to appear in advertisements for the new product line that will carry the tag line, “Luggage with extra lift."

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