Actually, You Probably Can Take Your Battery-Operated ‘Smart’ Bags on a Plane

You just need to know your rights.

February 9, 2018 9:00 am

As airlines become more militant about bringing certain types of  batteries (particularly the kind found in smart luggage) on board, it helps to know your rights.

Even if your airline doesn’t.

As we noted in December, smart luggage (ones that can charge your phones and laptops, weigh your bags and offer GPS/Bluetooth capabilities) often utilize lithium-ion batteries, which have come under increased scrutiny from the FAA due to the possibility of being damaged and (potentially) starting a fire.

The takeaway back then was that if you could remove the battery and stow it in the main cabin, you were fine. And Away, a smart luggage company we like, already offered this solution in their carry-on bags. So: inconvenience, yes, but problem solved.

Or so we thought.

Now the issue is inconsistent enforcement from the airlines themselves, particularly Delta. Away has received enough complaints from customers that co-founder and CEO Stephanie Korey this week issued a lengthy memo educating the masses on their rights.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working tirelessly to address an issue that’s caused travel for our customers to be less than the seamless experience we’ve promised them: confusion and misunderstanding around the new airline policies affecting luggage with batteries, like our Carry-Ons,” she wrote. “Every single Away Carry-On is approved to be carried on to any flight (with the battery in place), and checked onto any flight (with the battery removed). Period. And I’ve personally confirmed this with all major airlines.”

In her note, Korey detailed the company’s other moves to help consumers: emails (and instructions) to customers regarding airline policy, free replacement tools for Away customers who bought the company’s original set of luggage (which lacked easily removable batteries), quick social media responses to affected customers, and even the development of a “retrofit” kit to make the removable batteries pop out easier.

Delta, it seems, did not read the memo.

As Korey notes, “Despite dozens of attempts to engage in a solutions-oriented conversation with the Delta team, I’ve received wildly inconsistent information from multiple team members as well as several dismissive replies along the lines of ‘We’ll look into it.’”

Our suggestion? Be proactive when checking in, keep this article and Away’s battery explainer on file, and … be prepared to lose. It’s not like airlines have your best interests at heart.


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