Last month, many major airlines enacted a ban on “smart luggage” with non-removable lithium-ion batteries. However, according to Steph Korey, the CEO of luggage company Away, airlines have been prohibiting smart luggage even if it has a removable battery and should be allowed under the new policy.
In an internal email sent the Away team, Korey says there has been confusion with airlines as to which bags are and are not allowed. “Some airline employees have prohibited passengers from carrying on their carry-ons with the battery inside,” she writes. “Unfortunately, this isn’t just a few isolated incidents — over the past several weeks, we have heard from hundreds of customers regarding incidents where airline employees have made it clear they don’t understand their own airline’s policy.”
Per the new rules which went into effect on January 15th, all smart bags must have a removable battery. If the bag is being checked, the battery must be removed and carried on board by the passenger. If the bag is for carry-on, verbiage varies a little depending on the carrier. Delta’s website does not specifically address carry-on bags, but broadly says, “Smart bags with removable batteries will still be allowed if the battery can be removed on site and taken on board the aircraft with the customer.” American’s website clearly states regarding carry-on bags: “If the customer is able to take the bag into the cabin with them, the customer will be able to leave the battery installed.” Regardless of specifics, if the battery is removable, it should be allowed on board as a carry-on.
However, many passengers traveling with bags that have removable batteries have found that airline employees are unclear on the new rules, and many aren’t allowing them onboard at all. Though Away’s CEO gives an example in the email, a cursory search on Twitter brings up similar gripes:
The new restrictions were helmed by American Airlines and the International Air Transport Association in efforts to reduce the risk of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. Hoverboards and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 were banned for the same reason.
While there are bound to be growing pains with any new policy change, poor enforcement of these rules could be a major detriment to the smart luggage market, dissuading people from purchasing one when most are still fine to use under the new policies. To be clear, as long as your smart bag has a removable battery, you can check it with the battery removed, and you should be able to bring it on board as a carry-on.