Why You Should Be Using a Two-Wheeled Suitcase, According to a Flight Attendant

It will make your life a whole lot easier and help you avoid the painful (and underreported) “suitcase elbow.”

Why You Should Be Using a Two-Wheeled Suitcase, According to a Flight Attendant

Two-wheeled bags are built for speed.

Photo by Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

When was the last time you used two-wheeled luggage? For me, it was about a month ago, but for most, it’s probably been a decade or so. I never came around to the four-wheeler trend. I’ve stuck with the same reliable red and white polka dot suitcase that I’ve dragged around the world (on its two wheels) for the past 13 years. I hate being stuck behind someone just leisurely strolling with their suitcase next to them, taking up double the space of someone pulling a suitcase behind them. Think of it this way: When you’re walking down a sidewalk in a crowded city, isn’t it annoying to see a group filling the sidewalk, side by side like it’s a game of Red Rover, rather than walking single file? Wheeling your suitcase to the side is no different.

Try as I might to make my case, I’ve been reminded (constantly) that this is an unpopular opinion—there’s a reason everyone uses a four-wheeled suitcase now (though no one seems to know what it is). Is it because four-wheeled (or spinner luggage) was created after two-wheeled luggage, so newer must be better? Or for some, does pushing seem easier than pulling a bag? It’s growing harder and harder to find two-wheelers to buy. When I put my unpopular opinion to the test on an AFAR Instagram Story, a flight attendant responded—and I was vindicated.

“As a flight attendant, I can definitely tell you that two wheels not only last way longer, but they also reduce stress on your shoulders and back,” wrote Zack G. I was intrigued. Could you elaborate, Zack? Turns out it’s not just my unpopular opinion. There’s science here.

A flight attendant for the past six years with two major carriers, Zack is something of an expert when it comes to lugging a suitcase on and off planes. His first year, he used a four-wheeled bag. With a four-wheeled bag, you can push your luggage in front or to the side while keeping your elbow bent at an angle, or pull it behind you on two wheels. The ergonomic strain is disastrous, he says: “I eventually ended up using a compression sleeve for a condition my orthopedist called ‘suitcase elbow,’ more commonly known as ‘golfer’s elbow.’”

Suitcase. Elbow.

On top of that, Zack points out, four-wheeled bags are simply a logistical nightmare. Their tiny wheels, not even two inches high, often get stuck inside grooves in pavement or caught on door thresholds (yanking your already painful suitcase elbow) and retain much more debris from the floor, often causing a jam. They also take up more space in certain types of overhead bins that are slanted in the back, and the wheels stick out, leaving opportunity for more wear and tear. (The wheels on a two-wheeler are recessed, and the suitcase can be turned sideways to better fit the space.)

After a year of four-wheeled nonsense, Zack made the switch to a two-wheeled bag—a TravelPro flight crew two-wheeler—that he calls his “saving grace.” The wheels, more like a Rollerblade wheel and easily replaceable if necessary, have enough space to not jam with debris, and are tall enough to make it through a puddle without your bag getting wet. Most importantly, he’s no longer icing his wrist, shoulder, and arm every night: “The two-wheel design makes the luggage function like a shipping dolly or a lever. No matter how much weight I’m carrying, once I get the bag on two wheels gliding behind me, the work is effortless.”

Ergonomics? Check. Durability? Check. Ease-of-shoving-into-overhead-bin? Check. Two-wheeled luggage is the way to go. Flight attendants are professional travelers, and there’s a reason you rarely see them using four-wheeled bags: “If we did, we’d all be out with injuries.”

Convinced? Here are some two-wheelers from luggage brands we love:

TravelPro soft-shell black nylon suitcase with two wheels

Looking for the perfect carry-on? Ask a flight attendant.

Courtesy of Travelpro

Rollaboard Rolling Luggage by Travelpro

Buy now: from $130, travelpro.com

Zack’s personal choice? Travelpro is the go-to luggage brand for many flight attendants, so it’s no surprise he relies on a two-wheeler from the brand. His bag is five years old and only sold to flight crew, but similar, newer versions are available to travelers.

Red leather vintage-style suitcase with two wheels

SteamLine’s vintage-inspired carry-ons are stylish, colorful, and all two-wheeled.

Courtesy of SteamLine

The Entrepreneur Carry-On by SteamLine Luggage

Buy now: $550, steamlineluggage.com

Want something a little more colorful? All of SteamLine’s vintage-inspired carry-ons are two-wheelers and are available in a dozen different designs. We love how the red vegan leather exterior of the Entrepreneur pops against the brown straps and gold hardware.

Up next: Do you need packing cubes?

This article was originally published in 2021; it was updated on October 31, 2022, with new information.

Rosalie Tinelli is a senior audience development manager at AFAR overseeing social media and newsletters. She can also be found writing voicey opinion pieces for AFAR.com.
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