So-called “smart” luggage has become a hot trend in the last year. I’ve seen more and more startups begin to offer carry-on bags that include a built-in battery. That battery may be used to recharge other personal electronic devices, operate a GPS homing device, or even move the luggage for you.
However, large batteries aren’t exactly safe. Lithium-ion batteries can create fires that are potentially deadly. They’ve been implicated in several incidents with cargo planes, where they may be densely packed in greater numbers, but even isolated incidents involving small devices were enough of an issue to ban the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
Several airlines have now made plans or expect to announce plans to ban smart luggage from the cargo hold. This means you will have to bring your smart luggage onboard and place it in the overhead bin. (It probably won’t fit under the seat in front of you.) Alternatively, you may be able to check your bag if the battery can be removed. The key point is that the battery must travel in the passenger cabin. It’s too risky in the cargo hold for an inadvertent impact to start a fire, and too difficult to later put it out.
Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Spirit Airlines have already announced bans on checking smart luggage. The first three take effect on January 15, 2018, while the ban on Spirit Airlines is already active. You can read their policies by clicking on the links above. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines are still planning policies but have not made an announcement that I’m aware of. (Why, I don’t know. This doesn’t seem terribly complicated.)
I’ve never been a fan of smart luggage. The battery takes up extra space that could be used for packing, and many planes already have USB ports for charging. Tracking the location of your bag isn’t going to be much help if it’s still lost in some airline’s luggage sorting facility — it’s not like you can walk over and take it. You’d be better off spending that money on a high-quality, dumb bag with efficient design and good wheels that you can pull yourself. A lifetime warranty will save you more headache than a means to charge your phone on the go.