The smart-luggage industry is in jeopardy following a ban from US airlines on lithium-ion batteries. These batteries, present in almost every piece of smart luggage, are no longer allowed in the luggage hold due to accessibility issues should a fire break out mid-flight. Pioneering smart-luggage brands Bluesmart and Raden have already shut down as a result of the ban.
Lithium-ion batteries present in devices like laptops or smartphones are still permitted, however they must be taken on board into the cabin where any potential explosions or fires can be easily dealt with. The five largest carriers in the US – American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines – have all agreed on the ban.
While US flight regulations are notoriously strict, there’s no guarantee that such a ban won’t be adopted by European or even UK-based airlines in the near future. The ban can be circumvented by removing the battery from the luggage in question, but this raises two issues: firstly, this is extremely difficult to do with majority of smart suitcases as they’re hard-wired and totally integrated, and secondly it would remove all ‘smart’ functionality, essentially reducing it to a regular piece of luggage.
If you currently own a piece of smart luggage that happens to fit on board in the overhead storage compartment then that is permitted on the condition that the battery is removable. It’s unclear exactly how that rule will be enforced, though, as most batteries are technically ‘removable’, but the process can involve the unscrewing of screws and the snipping of wires.
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How are my rights affected?
Raden product owners
A message on Raden’s website states that it will no longer be accepting returns, exchanges or repairs. This doesn’t leave you with many options if you’re after a refund or repair, a situation worsened by the fact that Raden is a US-based company. Your best bet is to get in touch with the retailer that sold you your Raden product. All your usual rights apply – if you bought it less than 30 days ago then you can get a no-questions-asked refund, and if it breaks or has broken within the first six months from purchase then you are also entitled to your money back.
Bluesmart product owners
Bluesmart has made a similar, albeit much more thorough, statement on its own website. It has stated that any Bluesmart product you buy (from any retailer) is no longer warrantied or supported in any way. Servers and apps will be maintained for several months, but after that period functionality will deteriorate and service quality will be reduced.
Returns or replacements will no longer be accepted or refunded by the Bluesmart support team, but if you believe you have a claim against the company you can file a claim via this link. If you have backed a Bluesmart product via its crowdfunding campaign and have not received it then you can file a claim here.
If you need to change the ownership of your Bluesmart product then you can send an email to email@example.com. Be sure to include your suitcase ID, which can be found in the Settings section of the Bluesmart app.
If you’re soon to be flying with an airline imposing the lithium-ion battery ban then there are instructions on how to remove the battery from your Bluesmart case here.
Finally, the same consumer rights mentioned in the section on returning Raden products apply to you in the case of Bluesmart, too. For more information you can visit our dedicated guide to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
It should be stressed that there are plenty of major carriers the world over who haven’t implemented this ban yet, and that numerous pieces of smart luggage are still available to buy from a number of retailers. However, we can’t wholeheartedly endorse them as there’s really no telling whether or not those unaffected airlines will adopt the ban in the future.