Hate packing clothes for vacation? Now, Japan-bound travelers can skip this chore.

July 7, 2023

Many travelers have resolved to become light packers—all the better to attain the unencumbered lifestyle of those who sweep through an airport with nothing more than a carry on. But what if travelers could pack close to nothing at all?

That’s the idea behind a new clothing rental program from Japan Airlines (JAL), reports The Washington Post.

Starting on Wednesday, July 5, Japan-bound passengers JAL is offering passengers the opportunity to reserve apparel that will be delivered to their accommodation upon arrival, creating a “travel experience with minimal luggage,” the airline said in a release. Sumitomo, one of Japan’s largest trading companies, will be responsible for procuring, laundering and delivering the items, which will be sourced from overstock and pre-owned apparel.

The Any Wear, Anywhere program seeks to lighten passengers’ loads—and those of planes. JAL plans to monitor changes in passengers’ checked-baggage weight and study how it affects carbon emissions from aircraft during the 14-month trial. Japan’s flagship carrier operates flights from eight U.S. cities, including New York, Boston, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

The program offers clothing in sizes from small to extra large and in styles designated “casual” and “smart casual.” A set of smart-casual women’s clothes includes a black peacoat, three sweaters, two tops, two pairs of wide-leg pants and a skirt. A man looking for casual winter basics might order a package with a puffer coat, two sweaters, two pairs of pants and a sweatshirt. Prices begin at roughly $28.

JAL’s program seems like a natural evolution of the “sharing economy.” People have become accustomed to splitting rides, homes, workspaces, boats, and even swimming pools. To the pragmatic passenger, not having to mull over whether to pack a bulky sweater or twiddle thumbs at baggage claim may sound utopian.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the photo-oriented travelers of the 21st century will trust a foreign company with their sartorial choices for an entire trip. And if they do, it’s unclear how it will affect the carbon footprint of the aviation industry, which researchers say is responsible for 3.5% of human-induced climate change.

While the program might have trouble gaining traction among the many people who prefer buying to renting, it could also “raise awareness, to a degree, around emissions related to weight and distribution, and the need for all of us to buy, own and make do with less,” said Richard Cope, a sustainability consultant at Mintel. Cutting down on flights is also part of that, he added.

However, there are concerns about whether passengers will simply replace the space they would have used for clothes with other items, said Steffen Kallbekken of the Oslo-based Cicero Center for International Climate Research. And if such services increase demand for travel, that could backfire.

“Even a very small increase in flights would easily offset any environmental benefits from the rental program,” Kallbekken said. “It would not take much for the scales to tip the wrong way.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost