If you own any high-tech “smart” luggage and travel with it on planes, you may have a problem.
American Airlines, Delta, and Alaska Airlines announced on Wednesday, December 6, that if the battery is built into the luggage and cannot be removed, you won’t be able to take it onto the aircraft.
The ban is effective from January 15, 2018, and comes because of fears the batteries could overheat and catch fire.
United and Southwest could announce similar policies shortly.
To be clear, if the battery can’t be removed, you won’t be able to take it on board the plane as checked or carry-on luggage. If it can be removed, however, it can be left inside the bag and taken aboard as carry-on. Alternatively, you can remove it from the bag, check the bag, and then take the battery aboard as carry-on.
Alaska Airlines explains the policy like this:
- Smart bags will be allowed as carry-on baggage, if they meet carry-on size limits, and if it’s possible to remove the battery from the bag if needed.
- If the bag will fly as a checked bag, the battery must be removed and the battery must be carried in the cabin.
- If it’s not possible to remove the battery from the bag, the bag won’t be allowed on the plane.
So-called smart bags, which have been growing in popularity over the last year or so, feature a variety of (battery-powered) tech features that can be anything from GPS capability so you don’t lose it, to built-in digital scales so you don’t exceed your weight limits, to a motor that turns it into a scooter so you can whiz through the airport to your gate. DT reviewed some of the best ones just last summer.
The new rule will be a serious blow for outfits like New York-based Bluesmart, which came to prominence in 2014 with its debut smart suitcase that proved a hit with Indiegogo backers. It has since produced a range of smart luggage options and sold 64,000 of them globally, but their batteries can’t be removed.
“We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology, but that it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel,” Bluesmart said in a statement. It added that it plans to meet with the airlines to show its bags are safe in the hope that they’ll make an exception for their products.
Due to their fire risk, lithium-ion batteries have been a worry for airlines ever since the technology was introduced. The smart cases aren’t the first gadget to face an airline ban. Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation banned Samsung’s troubled Galaxy Note 7 from being taken on planes, and before that bans were put in place for so-called hoverboards after some batteries inside the personal transporter suddenly exploded.
But banning a product whose very purpose is travel will come as a huge disappointment for the many travelers who’ve already spent out on the technology, and presents a worrying problem for makers of smart bags. Now we’re waiting to see if other airlines follow America, Delta, and Alaska.