Smart Luggage: Not So Smart After All?
You’ve probably seen the following headlines hitting travel sites, news, and blogs overnight:
Regulators have warned that battery-powered devices from laptops to hoverboards could pose a fire risk to airliners…www.cnbc.com
Starting on January 15, the airline will require passengers checking luggage to remove the lithium ion batteries…money.cnn.com
Battery-powered devices, from laptops to hoverboards, could pose a fire risk to airliners when stowed, airlines and…nexcraft.co
The list continues and grows even as this is written, threatening to become a tidal wave of smart luggage bans across several airlines before it’s all finished — and just in time for the holiday travel season and beyond. The only thing worse might be a scheduling snafu that leaves the planes without pilots during the season, as well.
So what exactly is the smart luggage ban all about anyway? Why is this happening?
The basic premise of smart luggage is that the bags contain Lithium ion rechargeable batteries, which are then used to recharge things like cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices that many have come to rely on in varying degrees of dependency. There’s even smart luggage that you can actually ride like a hobby horse through the airport (though how smart you look doing this is some matter for debate).
Since American Airlines announced their battery ban in checked luggage in the cargo hold, the general consensus is that other airlines will swiftly follow suit. If you can’t remove the batteries, it doesn’t go in the cargo hold, so you either don’t fly, or leave the luggage behind.
What’s causing all this consternation among the traveling public and the air carriers?
Those pesky Lithium ion batteries. You may remember the Hoverboard and cell phone stories over the past three years or so where the rechargeable batteries contained in those devices had a tendency to violently combust for what seemed to be no apparent reason. Now that concern has been transferred to smart luggage, causing much consternation on both sides of the travel equation. The traveling public wants to fly with their wonder toys, and the airlines certainly want them to be able to do so — provided that it’s done safely, like by removing the potentially offending batteries from the smart luggage.
If you think there’s a crush at the last minute to check bags needing repacking, wait until they have to figure out what to do with the batteries they had to suddenly take out of those electronic wonder bags.
Where are they going to put them?
Like many product bans over the years, this one is powered by a healthy dose of fear; fear that the batteries could burst into flame in a plane’s cargo hold, creating all sorts of problems you don’t want to handle in a metallic tube hurtling thousands of feet above the ground. It may be an overabundance of caution driving the airline’s position, but that’s probably preferable to the alternative. Not that a passenger who feels entitled will ever understand that, mind you.
Meanwhile, I’d like to offer a solution I’ve used for years to solve this problem: ship your bags ahead to your destination, then take only the bare minimum with you on board the aircraft in a carry-on.
Haven’t had any luggage hassles for years now.