Travel

Smart luggage was the future, now it’s banished to the past

By Oliver Smith 7 December 2017
Summary

The tide is turning against innovative luggage.

GPS-tracking, battery-boasting, self-weighing super-bags took off in 2017.

But in 2018 they’re being sent into exile by airlines.

Crowdfunding and direct online sales helped launch new brands like Bluesmart which pioneered a new category of high-tech luggage, selling over 65,000 bags to smart travellers.

The ability to track your bag from your smartphone, for your luggage to weigh and lock itself, and handy built-in batteries to charge your smartphone at the airport, all led to an explosion of interest in the bags.

However, most major US airlines announced this week they would be banning smart luggage next year.

Image: Getty/Laser1987.

Wha…?!

“Smart bags, also known as smart luggage, have become more popular over the last few months, and they are expected to be a popular gift this holiday season,” said American Airlines, before dropping the tone with:

“However, smart bags contain lithium battery power banks, which pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.”

Their decision is that from 15 January batteries must be removed from hold luggage, lest they present a fire risk.

Their advice for owners of smart hold luggage with non-removable batteries?

“If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed.”

One can only assume that there’s a security risk from non-removable batteries that airport security can’t check-out.

Its decision was swiftly followed by other major US airlines, Delta, Alaska Airlines, United and Southwest.

So far UK airlines haven’t followed suit, but a British Airways spokeswoman told The Memo that “customers wishing to carry in their hand or checked baggage any item containing a lithium battery (other than a mobile telephone, laptop or digital camera) must always seek approval from our safety team prior to travel.”

Not exactly streamlining your trip.

Flying backwards

The US airlines’ decisions seem ridiculous, flying against the tide of luggage innovation.

It’s certainly back to the drawing board for Bluesmart, which said it is meeting with airlines to prove the safety of its bags, but luckily the other major smart luggage brands Away and Raden come with removable batteries.

Given 2016’s exploding Samsung Note 7 fiasco, many are finally waking up to the fact that batteries can (and do) go bang.

Just search Google News today and you’ll find dozens of stories of exploding smartphones, cameras, and other devices powered by lithium-ion batteries around the world.

The real culprit isn’t smart luggage, or the airlines them them, it’s the dangerous batteries powering our devices.