Leading U.S. airlines have all agreed that all your expensive smart luggage is dumb luggage now, CNN reported on Wednesday. Carriers including American, Delta, and Alaska are requiring customers remove lithium-based batteries from the bags and carry them personally before stowing them in their aircraft, citing the risk that the batteries could start a fire that burns through other luggage—with one big problem being that the batteries in many smart luggage lines are non-removable.
In a statement to CNN, American Airlines wrote that the batteries “pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.” If United Continental and Southwest Airlines also enact similar smart-luggage policies (something they’ve already indicated will happen), then the bags will be subject to such rules in over 80 percent of U.S. air traffic. Per CNN, Delta and Alaska’s policies will even apply to carry-on bags, and will go into effect on January 15th, 2018.
Smart luggage boasts a number of features, usually including USB ports for recharging mobile devices, electronic locks, or alarms, and sometimes Bluetooth, GPS tracking, or internal weight scales. As CNN noted, a few models even have motors to double-function as scooters or just to help customers lug them around airports. Forcing customers to strip out the batteries makes them far less convenient and would undermine some of the key features like GPS tracking, which is supposed to keep smart bags from being lost in airline bag hell.
Some brands’ products might essentially be banned from checked air luggage if the batteries can’t be taken out. This is the case with Bluesmart, one of the leading manufacturers of smart luggage.
In a statement to CNN, Bluesmart wrote that they 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.”
Does this mean that the trend of slapping digital components on every little item is kind of dumb? Sort of. Smart luggage has always been emblematic of how the internet of things concept can operate as a gimmick to justify higher prices for just a few truly useful features. But now that we live in an era where airline security procedures are increasingly eating into the convenience of air travel, smart luggage also just got a lot less useful. [CNN Money]