“New Regulations on Smart Travel Bags Pose New Challenges”
Smart devices are the way of today’s world. Now a part of daily existence, smart technology is embedded into nearly everything we use to make life easier. This includes travel luggage.
The latest craze in travel merchandise is smart carry-on luggage. The bags generally have USB ports to recharge phones and other smart devices. Some are also equipped with a weight scale to prevent overpacking, electronic locks, and GPS capabilities to track the bag’s location if it gets lost. Other smart bags are even motorized to be used as a scooter or to rove alongside their owners all the way to the gate. In addition to their mobility, these bags measure up to an ideal overhead bin size of 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
These are anticipated to be one of this holiday season’s most popular gifts. The luggage has obvious value for those who travel regularly for work or play, as no one likes those rushed runs swerving through crowds and dodging children on leashes (a topic for another day).
However, the bags won’t do travelers much good if they can’t make it past airport security. Starting January 15, passengers checking these smart bags will have to remove their lithium-ion batteries (or power them down if traveling in the cabin). American, Delta, and Alaska Airlines are implementing this policy, with United Continental and Southwest soon to follow suit. CNN reports that these carriers comprise 80 percent of U.S. air traffic.
This regulation came about because of safety concerns. Airlines are worried about the potential fires the lithium batteries could start in flight that would go undetected. However, many of these bags’ batteries cannot be physically removed. Bluesmart, a smart bag manufacturer, says it’s compliant with present regulations and is still facing this new restriction. How do you remove an unremovable battery? The company said in a recent interview that it was “saddened” by the recent regulation changes and feel it’s a setback for technology that presents new hurdles to overcome in simplifying the way we travel.
These smart bags are not alone in facing regulations. The FAA proposed similar bans on laptops in checked baggage due to similar safety issues revolving around lithium batteries. Research to find a safer alternative continues, but nothing is available on the market yet.
For now, it looks like the sky does have limits for travelers. We understand the frustration. Buying a bag that makes air travel more of a hassle, when it’s supposed to do the opposite, is painfully ironic. But, to make the most of the situation, it may be best to hold off on use or purchase of these bags in favor of ole reliable luggage until a resolution is reached – one that will hopefully have fewer hiccups!