If you have been in an airport in the last 10 years, you must have seen or used the ubiquitous retractable handle (aka telescopic handle) luggage. These bags are handy, as they are on wheels and have a handle that comes up when needed, letting you drag it around airports, hotel lobbies or wherever your travels take you. They can either be carry-on luggage or larger, checked suitcases. Oftentimes, these bags will also be hardside luggage, meaning they have a protective, hard shell relative to traditional, softer luggage. While useful, it’s a common issue for the telescopic handles on these types of bags to get jammed. If you have a retractable handle bag with a stuck or jammed handle, try a few tested ways to free the stuck suitcase handle and make the bag "handy" once again.

This article will walk you through some of the ways you can unjam a luggage handle that has gotten stuck so you are prepared for any minor malfunctions with a piece of luggage on your next trip.

Suitcase Handle Stuck at the Airport? Here's what to do.

Remove the Housing

The first step to fix luggage handles is removing the housing. Use a small screwdriver, such as those found on pocket-sized multi-tools, to unscrew the retaining bolts on the housing panel where the handle retracts. Pull the housing up and off the luggage, exposing the handle mechanism.

Find the Cause of the Jam

Shine a small light into the handle housing. See if any obstructions such as paper, pebbles or small stones or items are clogging the retracting handle. Remove this debris if present.

If the handle is jammed because it is off-track or the poles are not lubricated, push the handle back onto the track, then firmly grip and pull up on the handle to work the telescoping poles.

Lubricate the Handle Poles

Add some dry lubricant such as a paraffin-based lube or a graphite lube to the pole sliders. This helps get the poles working again with as little friction as possible, a possible source of the jamming on the handle.

Push the handle up and down several times to work the lubricant deep into the sides.

Replace the Housing

Place the housing plate back over the handle and align the handle properly so it does not get caught on the housing panel when you try to retract or pull up. Screw the retaining bolts back in, open the handle, and get back on the road to safe and easy travels.

Note:‌ Hopefully, your luggage handle works after trying these quick fixes. However, in some cases, you may find that you just have a broken handle. In these situations, you may be able to look up any luggage repair services near you that can fix luggage handles and broken suitcases. You may also buy a brand new handle as a replacement handle for the old one.


Before you consider repairing broken luggage, ensure that you refer to the warranty from when you initially purchased it. Lifetime warranties cover issues with luggage—even a broken handle. Luggage manufacturers like Samsonite will often offer lifetime warranties.