Airlines Are Banning Smart Luggage—Here’s Why

published Dec 7, 2017
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(Image credit: Nutthaseth Van)

If your New Year’s Resolution involves more travel, you may need to start rethinking the way you pack. That is, if you’ll be traveling by air, and are the proud and stylish owner of smart luggage—the kind made by brands like Away, Bluesmart, and Raden.

That’s right, the luggage that can charge your phone and track your valuables is no longer welcome aboard the cargo holds of some major American carriers. American Airlines and Delta Airlines have just announced a ban on smart luggage that goes into effect January 15, 2018.

Why the ban? And why right now? Given the rising popularity of smart luggage and the airlines’ presumption that they will be an incredibly popular gift this holiday season, the announcement comes as an effort to stave off any in-flight issues caused by the bags’ lithium-ion batteries.

(Image credit: Away)

These batteries power the smarts of said smart luggage—and are also proven to be a huge fire hazard given their tendency to overheat. In fact, lithium-ion batteries have a long and troubled history when it comes to air travel (remember when it seemed that nearly every other day another Samsung Galaxy was exploding and the Department of Transportation deemed Note 7s forbidden hazardous material?).

Per Consumer Reports, “the FAA reports that, on average, one of these fires occurs every 10 days. Assuming that figure is correct, that is an alarmingly high number to this already nervous flyer.

American’s announcement was quickly followed by Delta, and in all likelihood similar policies are to come from United and Southwest Airlines. Under the ban, the airlines won’t let passengers check their smart luggage if the lithium-ion battery cannot be removed.

While removal does render a smart suitcase ineffective, the physical removal shouldn’t be too much of an issue for travelers with Raden and Away bags. A TSA approved screwdriver can uninstall batteries from bags by those manufacturers, which Away CEO Steph Korey reiterated in a statement to Apartment Therapy: “American Airlines has banned luggage containing non-removable batteries, which does not affect our products. All Away Carry-Ons have removable batteries.”

Travelers with Bluesmart bags, however, may find things more difficult since the manufacturer does not allow its batteries to be removed.

Update 12/8/17: Updated to include comment from Away.