Before you embark on holiday plans to visit the grandparents, unwind on a quiet beach in an exotic, faraway place, or take the ski trip of a lifetime, it may be important to consider what type of luggage you're taking along. If you're someone who's always one step ahead of the latest travel technology, it's likely that you've purchased a "smart bag" to accommodate any and all traveling necessities. However, smart bag owners beware: A number of airlines with "smart bag" restrictions are making airport security a little bit difficult for many travelers this holiday season.
According to The Washington Post, smart bags have gained popularity because of their internal tracking devices (useful for a suitcase if it goes missing), as well as their built-in smart phone, laptop and/or tablet chargers. Many are equipped with a built-in scale to weigh themselves, and can be internally locked with just a smartphone app. One brand, Modobag, even motorizes its luggage, which is super useful for toting travelers throughout the airport.
Although smart bags sound like the necessary gem to make travel just a little less stressful, many airplanes are now requiring customers to remove their batteries before checking them. This is because the lithium-ion batteries pose the risk of catching fire, which you may remember, is the same reason why Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones were banned from airplanes by the U.S. Department of Transportation last year.
American Airlines released the statement below regarding smart bags, on Dec. 1:
As part of safety management and risk mitigation, we always evaluate ways to enhance our procedures, and the Safety team at American has conducted its own analysis of these bags. Beginning Jan. 15, customers who travel with a smart bag must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked at any point in the customer’s journey. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed.
Delta and Alaska airlines also released statements on smart bag policies shortly after, declaring a ban on checking any potentially harmful batteries starting Jan. 15. In Alaska's statement, Mike Tobin, manager of dangerous goods, said,
At Alaska, we are unwavering in our commitment to guest safety. We love innovation and understand why smart bags are so appealing for travel. While these restrictions may pose a challenge to some of our guests, there have been no incidents to date with smart bags on airplanes and we want to keep it that way. As this technology continues to evolve, we will work with the industry and our partner airlines to evaluate all safety policies and provide clear guidance regarding the safe use of smart bags.
Amidst numerous major airlines banning smart bag power sources from the plane's cargo, few smart bag companies have released statements regarding the issue. However, Bluesmart — an OG smart bag brand — released a statement last week, saying:
We did our due diligence to make sure that we complied with all international regulations defined by DOT and FAA. While most airlines understand and approve of smart luggage, others might still be getting up to speed. We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology but it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration's policy on packing safe, any items with lithium batteries must be disconnected and may only be brought in a carry-on. FAA's "Pack Safe" page says,
The FAA requires that you carry e-cigarettes and spare lithium batteries in your carry-on baggage. They are always forbidden in checked baggage — including in bags checked at the gate or planeside.
A trackable bag that charges your phone and could potentially carry you around the airport seems relatively useful — however, a battery that catches fire could definitely damper your holiday. So make sure to read up on your airline's smart bag policies, and be prepared to disconnect any smart bag batteries before checking into your flight.