Most of the nation's major airlines began enforcing a policy last month that bans checked luggage with built-in batteries out of fear that the lithium ion power supply will start a fire in the cargo hold.
At least one luggage manufacturer is already reporting confusion with the new rules.
American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, Hawaiian and other airlines have adopted rules to address the increasing popularity of smart luggage, which comes with built-in devices that can weigh the bag, track its location using GPS and lock it remotely using a smartphone app. Some bags even include wheels and a motor so that travelers can ride the luggage like a scooter.
Because of the risk of fire, the airlines require that the battery be removed before the luggage goes into the cargo hold, but the battery can be carried into the cabin.
Steph Korey, chief executive and co-founder of the luggage maker Away, sent a memo to her staff last week saying owners of her luggage are having trouble flying on Delta Air Lines because flight attendants are refusing to let the loose batteries be placed in the overhead compartments. Her bags include a battery for recharging smartphones and other devices.
"Over the past several weeks, we have heard from hundreds of customers regarding incidents where airline employees have made it clear they don't understand their own airline's policy, causing unnecessary problems for our (and their!) customers," her memo said.
In an interview, Korey said that her company has been talking with Delta about clearing up the misunderstanding. So far, the new airline policies have not hurt sales of her luggage, she said.
A Delta representative declined to comment on the dispute, except to cite the airline's new luggage policy.