How to Remove Your Smart Bag Battery

Can't remove the battery? TSA battery rules may ground your smart bag

A woman putting a carry on bag in an overhead bin.

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You've heard of smart luggage, right? It features a rechargeable battery pack and can do things like charge your phone or laptop, be locked from an app on your smartphone even if you're not in site of your bag, or even tracked via GPS. Some even feature powerful enough batteries that you can ride them from one gate to the next. But here's the thing. As neat as that smart luggage is, you have to know how to remove your smart bag battery.

In 2018, the TSA and FAA released new battery requirements that have grounded many pieces of smart luggage.

Even Smart Carry-On Luggage is Affected

The battery requirements from the FAA make it clear that any kind of lithium ion battery cannot be checked into the cargo hold of a plane. That means your smart bag can't reside in the belly of the plane with all the other luggage. No problem, you'll just carry it on, right? There are a couple of problems with that theory.

First, given the problems that airlines have experienced with batteries in things like vapes or electronic cigarettes and smartphones catching fire, many airlines are no longer willing to allow you to have a connected battery, even in the cabin of the plane. The second problem is that these days, you never know when the cabin storage bins will fill up before you can find a place to store your carry-on luggage, which means that it may end up gate checked, or taken from you as you board the plane and stored in the cargo hold of the plane.

Another issue is that not all airlines treat smart bags the same way. For example, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines allow you to leave the batter connected in your smart bag as long as it will be carried onto the plane and stored in the cabin. If you have to gate check the bag, the battery must be removed and stored in the cabin. Delta and United require the battery to be removed, even if the bag is stored in the cabin.

If you plan to travel with smart luggage, be sure to call all airlines involved in your flight to learn their requirements before you try to check or carry-on the bag.

What that means for your smart luggage is that you must be able to remove the battery from the bag before you get on the plane. It's okay to store the battery in your checked luggage. It just can't be connected.

How to Remove Your Smart Bag Battery

The challenge that many people have found with smart luggage is that the batteries are hard to remove. Though some smart bag manufacturers have started making batteries that are easy to remove, others are still a challenge.

Pop-out batteries are becoming more popular, and they are as easy to remove as pushing a button until the battery pops out of the socket that holds it. Then you can store the disconnected battery inside the bag, and reinsert it when you land.

The more difficult type of batteries all differ in some small ways. Some are more complicated than others, but the general instructions for removing those batteries are:

  1. Empty the smart bag so you can access the interior liner of the bag.

  2. Unzip the interior liner to find the battery pack. It's usually located at the top or bottom of the bag.

  3. Using a screwdriver (sometimes provided with the luggage), unscrew the housing that hold the batter in place.

    An interior view of the battery on a smart suitcase.
    The interior view of the battery on a Bluesmart smart suitcase. Courtesy of Bluesmart 
  4. Disconnect the battery by pulling the battery cable free from its connection. Then you can pack your bag and store the battery inside the bag (if you plan to carry it on the plane).

You see the problem here? These types of bag have batteries that are difficult to get at. The smart bag needs to be empty, or close to empty, to access and remove the battery pack. The battery pack then needs to be stored in carry-on luggage, and though you can replace it once you land, you have to go through the same steps again. Remove what's in the suitcase to open the battery housing and replace the battery. That's hard to do in the middle of the airport.

How Smart Bag Manufacturers Are Responding To the New Rules

Realizing the new battery rules render some smart bags useless, some manufacturers, such as Away, which makes some of the most popular smart suitcases on the market, are trying to make the process easier. Away, for example, now offers free conversions or conversion kits for Away smart bag owners with the older style bags. Free of charge the company will update your smart bag battery or send you a replacement kit you can update yourself so you have a pop-out battery.

Other manufacturers, like Bluesmart, didn't survive the changes to the battery requirements. But other smart luggage companies have sprung up to replace them, so there are plenty of options available for smart luggage with varying capabilities. So, as long as you know the requirements (that smart bag batteries must be removable, and you may be required to remove them before boarding a plane), and you know how to remove and store your batteries, your smart bags might still be useful.