Smart luggage is great. However, there’s one major problem that’s been hard to shake — confusion over its legality and where you can and can’t take smart luggage.
This article will aim to put an end to confusion over the rules and regulations surrounding smart luggage, previous bans, and most importantly — the rules on using smart luggage today.
We’ll look at:
- Who makes the rules and where do I need to look?
- Who banned smart luggage and why?
- How to buy compliant smart luggage
Is smart luggage banned?
No. As a general rule, virtually every smart luggage case you can buy in 2021 is compliant with all major airlines across the globe.
Smart luggage had a turbulent history with regulators in the first few years while regulations adapted — catching out some big name brands in the process — but this is no longer the case.
Who regulates smart luggage?
IATA — The international airline transport association — are the benchmark for the travel industry.
The Canadian headquartered organisation are a collection of nearly 300 airlines across the globe, who represent airlines and help develop industry regulation.
IATA helped shape the future of luggage regulations and are the defining global voice!
How are the rules followed?
The international guidelines formed via industry body IATA don’t allow airlines or individual countries to relax the rules, but they can allow them to implement stricter versions.
As an example:
- IATA regulations allow gas hair straighteners in checked and hand luggage, however prohibit additional spare gas canisters.
- Individual airlines can make this more restrictive if they choose — prohibiting all gas hair straighteners and additional canisters.
- However, they cannot make it less restrictive — and allow additional gas canisters alongside hair straighteners if they want.
In reality, airlines are commercial businesses and do not want to impose any additional restrictions upon what their customers can and can’t bring. For this reason — although it is still recommended to check with your individual airline — the definitive place for the rules is your countries specific website.
Two great sources of smart luggage info:
Why was smart luggage banned in the USA?
Like any new emerging field or technology — regulations often lack the pace of development.
Smart luggage was widely reported to begin with a crowdfunding campaign in 2014 and brand, Bluesmart. Bluesmart’s carry on bag had plenty of features, and was hugely popular. However, production models in 2015 arrived prior
The industry began looking at the root cause of these issues — lithium-ion batteries — rather than banning individual products.
How smart luggage rules progressed
- 2014 – 2016: smart luggage unregulated
- 2016 – 2018: smart luggage banned in checked luggage by some airlines
- 2018 onwards: Smart luggage without removable batteries banned worldwide
01. Smart luggage unregulated
The problem with lithium-ion batteries had been highlighted before — in fact shipments of lithium-ion batteries in aircraft holds had been banned already. When looking at smart luggage, airlines first believed that they didn’t need a total ban.
02. Smart luggage allowed in cabin only
As highlighted — lithium-ion batteries were already carried in hand luggage on planes in many gadgets — so smart luggage was permitted only in the cabin.
However, with the introduction of hand baggage only fares, storage space in the cabin quickly filled up, and many bags intended to be hand luggage were being checked into the hold when this happened.
03. Smart luggage without removable batteries banned
Following several incidents of smart bags without removable batteries being placed in the hold during 2016, in January 2017 US airlines began a complete ban on luggage without removable batteries. This is arguably the period of most confusion, as between 2017 and 2018 some airlines allowed smart luggage bags and some banned them.
Finally, in 2018 following new legislation, all smart bags without removable batteries were banned.
Banned smart luggage brands suffer
The 2018 ruling — banning luggage without removable lithium-ion batteries — caught several companies out. The original inventor of smart luggage Bluesmart tried to fight the ruling before ultimately ending up in administration. At the same time, another promising smart luggage brand Raden, also folded — citing regulation changes as the cause.
It wasn’t just smart luggage, or newer companies, or even companies with lithium-ion batteries that suffered under the new legislation!
The US smart luggage ban also killed off some smart accessories too. High-end brand Rimowa’s smart luggage tag — powered by AAA batteries, enabling you to track your luggage and check in for your flight heading to the airport — also suffered the same fate as the batteries were not removable. It wasn’t even technically banned but the knock-on effect of the ban and misinterpretation of the rules made it less viable.
The latest rules on smart luggage
Can you check in smart luggage?
You can only check in smart luggage if it has a removable battery AND you have removed it and carry the battery on your person as hand luggage.
If you have done this and removed the battery first, yes, you can check in smart luggage.
Are there smart luggage hand baggage restrictions?
There are two types of batteries widely used and allowed for carry ons:
- Lithium ion
- Lithium metal
Even though you can carry batteries with you — they need to be less than 100 watt hours for lithium-ion batteries. For lithium metal there is no restriction on wattage but the need to be made up of less than 2 grams of lithium.
Can you use smart luggage with non-removable batteries?
No. Some unscrupulous retailers have tried to cheaply sell old stock of old-style smart suitcases with fixed batteries.
Unfortunately regardless of when you have purchased your smart luggage, fixed batteries are banned worldwide.
Despite being innovative and feature-packed, Bluesmart was one of the first brands to be a causality of banning non-removable batteries.