Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What's Next? Flying Luggage?

I haven't made a big secret of my dislike for marketing departments. In Shaving Soap Sheets and Holey Soap I discussed how their actions have struck me as being driven by dubious motives, and in Airport Polynom Syndrome I suggested an occasional lack of good judgment . The marketing departments in the travel industry continue to find new ways to make me scratch my head.

Lately, I've been seeing a lot of ads for a new service that is offered by FedEx through United Airlines. The service guarantees overnight, door to door baggage service. The idea of paying even more fees to have your luggage moved from one place to another strikes me as a bit silly. It's as if United is admitting that there is a good chance that your bags won't make it, so you might want to try FedEx because they really know how to move luggage. Details about this service can be found at Door-to-Door Baggage.

I may think that an airline partnering with anyone to provide a similar, competing service may be a tad self defeating, but all of that is beside my main point, which has to do with the artwork used to promote this service. I have put their image onto a white background for the sake of clarity:

I've probably spent more time than I should have in pondering the above image, but that's because it's just plain wrong. To me, it appears that the wings are going in opposite directions; that is, the leading edges of the wings are not pointing the same way. This would make forward propulsion of the suitcase quite difficult, and it would cause the suitcase to spin around like a helicopter suddenly attached to its rotor.

How successful such a flight would be would depend on a lot of factors that we just don't know, such as how much lift is provided by the wings, how much the suitcase weighs and the weight distribution of the suitcase.

Another possibility, with the wing configuration illustrated above, would be for the suitcase to be flung sideways like a boomerang. Of course, fixed wings work better for a boomerang, and these bird-like wings do not appear to be fixed.

A coworker of mine suggested that the far wing could be up so high that we are seeing the underside of it. After considering this, I determined that the only way that this theory would work would be if:
1. the suitcase were flying toward us.
2. the wing had become broken and twisted.

Since the suitcase appears to be of normal proportions and it would be silly to use an injured flying suitcase in an advertisement, I have dismissed this theory.

I'm pretty sure that the idea of the image is to convey that the service will give your baggage the freedom to arrive independently from you, flying to your destination like a bird. I believe that the following image invokes the appropriate connotations while avoiding some of the more tricky aeronautical quagmires that I have mentioned:
Of course, my version is not without flaws. Using my basic Photoshop skills, I copied the existing wing, which clearly shows the underside and put it on the far side of the suitcase. The far wing should picture the top side of a wing. There is also no way to tell if these wings would provide enough lift as the properties (mass, location of center of gravity, etc.) of the system are unknown.

Assuming that there was sufficient lift to get the suitcase to fly, how would it steer? I suppose that the bird-like wings could do some steering, but even birds have tail feathers. How about landings? I know that my suitcase isn't built for landing at speed on any kind of surface.

Perhaps I'm just being a little too picky, but I don't think that it's too much to ask for a little bit of reality from advertisements coming from a company with which I trust my life while flying. I mean, if they don't know how wings work, who does?

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  1. Are those angel wings? Because if they were then we know for sure our stuff would get there safely. Sarcasm. I could see doing this if I had a ton of stuff to ship but otherwise I don't get it. Stick to one bag and carry it on.

  2. Robin Sue: I hadn't thought about those being angel wings. Maybe it's a sort of threat.
    "If you don't use this service and choose to let the airline handle your bags, then your luggage is destined for luggage heaven." Of course that would be reading into it a bit and I would never want to do that.