This Airline Is Renting Clothing to Customers

They are trying to make baggage loads lighter, but will the program actually have environmental benefits?

Businessman gets dressed in the morning in his hotel room
Would you opt to have clothing delivered to your hotel room upon arrival?
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I love renting clothing. It lets me wear styles I might not usually buy at price points that are sometimes well above my means — which allows me to try more with spending significantly less. And a lot of other people I know are fans, as they say it reduces their consumption of fast fashion, too. Japan Airlines (JAL) is catching on to the trend by offering a clothing rental program for their Japan-bound passengers.  

The new program is called “Any Wear, Anywhere” and wants to create a “travel experience with minimal luggage,” the airline said in a release. Not only is the new initiative meant to lighten passengers’ loads — the reserved clothing will be delivered to a passenger’s accommodations in Japan — but it also wants to reduce the weight of the airplanes themselves. During the 14-month trial, JAL will monitor shifts in the weight of passengers’ checked bags and how it affects the aircrafts’ carbon emissions.

Sumitomo — one of Japan’s largest trading companies — is working with JAL on the program and will be in charge of obtaining, delivering and laundering the clothing, which will be pre-owned and overstock items. The sets are available in sizes S through XL for men and women, and interested parties can filter sets by season, formality (casual, smart casual or a mix) and the number of pieces in the set. It seems like the service is already gaining steam, as one particular men’s winter set is already sold out in every size but medium.

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I love the idea of packing lighter and having clothing delivered upon arrival, but to anyone who currently rents, you know that some of the issues with sizing and fit can be a struggle. Sometimes things simply don’t look good or your usual size doesn’t work, depending on the brand — which is less of an issue when you can simply return the item for something new and reach into your closet instead. But if you’re flying across the world only to find the clothing you rented is ill-fitting or unflattering, it might put a damper on an otherwise exciting vacation.

JAL’s clothing rental program also comes with the hope of carbon emission reduction. According to Any Wear, Anywhere, ditching 22 pounds of luggage on a flight from New York to Tokyo “reduces carbon emissions by about 16.5 pounds, the equivalent of 78 days of not using a hair dryer.” But although rental services do help to reduce consumption, Saif Benjaafar — a professor and supply chain expert at the University of Minnesota — told The Washington Post that they “often fall short in delivering on the environmental promise” because of the carbon footprint that comes with delivering, returning and cleaning the garments. “In this particular case, JAL may be able to reduce its carbon footprint, but at the expense of creating new emissions due to the rental business.”

Even with its potential downfalls, JAL’s rental program is certainly an innovative idea — and one that I’m sure we’ll see other airlines and hotel brands try in the future.


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