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The Interview: Richard Krulik of Briggs & Riley Luggage

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How do you choose a suitcase that’s going to last?

I thought I’d ask Richard Krulik, CEO of U.S. Luggage, parent company to Briggs & Riley Travelware and SOLO, two leading innovators of high-quality luggage and business cases. I’ve used their suitcases for years and apart from being very well made, I quickly learned that their  carry-on bag is truly carry-on, not to mention rugged, reliable and presentable. You can take it to a rustic cabin in the woods or check into a five star hotel and it always passes muster. One more thing about Richard Krulik: he’s also a licensed pilot, so he must have some insight into that uneasy marriage between luggage and aircraft.

Richard Krulik of Briggs & Riley
Richard Krulik of Briggs & Riley

EP: Why should I invest in a good piece of luggage? Why not just buy something less expensive since it’s going to get knocked around?

RK: The age old saying “You get what you pay for” is especially true with luggage. Quality components that will withstand the rigors of travel cost more money.  Inexpensive luggage will have inexpensive components that will ultimately fall apart. Cheap fabrics tear, cheap wheels fall off and cheap zippers bust. When a manufacturer invests in quality components, the end user benefits as a direct result.  Sturdy handles, wide low-profile wheels, #10 YKK zippers and ballistic nylon will stand the test of time.

Briggs & Riley luggage is designed and built to last a lifetime –even if “life” happens, travelers can rest easy knowing the company’s unconditional performance warranty stands up to the 100% rule.  If a Briggs & Riley bag is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, it will be repaired free of charge, no questions asked.

EP: From a consumer standpoint, what should we be looking for when we buy a carry-on bag?

RK: Hands down, the warranty is critical when determining the “best” carry-on.  The “best” is no good if it breaks and you have to pay to fix it, or stranded without a wheel on a trip where you need it to wheel!  It’s important to have a bag with nothing less than a Lifetime Warranty – that’s really your guarantee that the product has been built to the highest standards. Travelers also need to make sure that the exterior is made of high quality materials that will protect their belongings, such as ballistic nylon or automotive grade polycarbonate, depending on preference of soft side vs. hard. Telescopic handles should be constructed out of sturdy, best in class materials such as aircraft grade aluminum, and a strong protective casing around the tubes is also essential. Travelers should definitely select luggage with durable, internally mounted wheels that extend to the edges of the case but not beyond it – because externally mounted wheels can easily be knocked off during baggage handling. Other key features include flat packing capability; a spacious, roomy interior; I also really like to have a suit folder with a removable panel because it allows me to use it as a large pocket for laundry or packing.

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EP: Briggs & Riley is known for soft-sided luggage, but now I see you’re introducing the hard shell Torq. Can you tell me what the advantages are to such pieces? 

RK: In all luggage there are features and functions that are a matter of preference and some that are universally appealing.  The Torq hardside collection from Briggs & Riley has been designed with meticulous, state-of-the-art engineering features, aimed at protecting travelers’ belongings for a lifetime. It’s been designed for those who like the hardsided sleek look and who want superb functionality – such as the protective front pocket for electronics and a tablet on the carry-on size. Our Torq collection has distinct benefits from other hardside luggage on the market. One of the key characteristics that makes the Torq collection truly innovative is its outer shell, constructed using an automotive grade polycarbonate called Makrolon, a high-performance composite material, plus a “secret” middle layer which adds rebound and flexibility properties to prevent the hard shell from cracking. A unique 80/20 top-lid opening, which opens like traditional luggage rather than the 50/50 clamshell opening and packing limits of other hard sided options on the market. A lockable hardside front compartment which is gusseted and zipperless, the compartment lid sits flush with bag when closed. Holds a tablet, magazines, bagged 3 oz. liquids, or other travel essentials. Double Spinner Wheels are Durable, recessed with a low center of gravity prevents bag from toppling, provides unmatched maneuverability.  The spinner wheels also feature a wide wheel base for tilt-resistant maximum stability and steady rolling.

EP: Do you think we’ll be paying the airlines for the privilege of traveling with carry on bags in the future?

RK: We already are, in some countries and on low cost carriers.  Consumers care about a lot of things when they travel, their seat, their bags, their comfort.  Airlines have already started to charge for all kinds of things which used to be free.  In 2012, airlines cashed in with an estimated $36.1 billion in ancillary revenue.  By airline official rules, travelers are entitled to their seat and the space beneath it – they’re not “entitled” to overhead bin space even.  So imagine what would happen if that space went for a fee, or worse only for certain types of ticket purchases? 

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EP: How about you – what bag or bags do you like to travel with, and why?

RK: I’m the perfect focus group since I travel a lot and use a variety of bags.  Like women with shoes, I like to match my luggage for the trip.  When I went on Safari in Africa, I carried our BRX line; geared for the adventurer and rigorous outdoor travel and usage.  On typical business trips I’m a loyal Baseline fan. I carry the Olive color way.  I rely on the features within the bag ; I can pack suits and business clothing which arrive wrinkle-free and the well thought out organization for all other accessories and personal items.   I’m always experiencing how Briggs & Riley bags function in the real world so I can truly relate to our business and leisure clientele.   I’m looking forward to testing out Torq, so far, even I can’t get a sample!

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