Smart luggage startup Raden announced today that it has shut down and can no longer handle “returns, exchanges or repairs.” It’s the second dedicated smart luggage company to go under this month (following Bluesmart, which ceased operations May 1st) after major US airlines imposed strict rules on suitcases with batteries earlier this year.
The policies that airlines like Delta and American put in place earlier this year most aggressively targeted luggage with non-removable batteries, like the kinds Bluesmart sold. (Bluesmart shut down, but it sold its intellectual property to luggage giant TravelPro.) Raden, meanwhile, sold suitcases with removable batteries, which are still fine to check on most airlines as long as fliers carry the battery in the cabin with them. The company says the companion app — which lets users check the weight of their bag and was supposedly going to enable an ambitious mesh-network style tracking system — will continue to work, too. But the ban, and perhaps the change in sentiment toward smart luggage, will still hit Raden hard, according to the company.
“The changes in policies concerning batteries in luggage in December by all major airlines severely impacted the usefulness of our products, their value to our customers, our business performance and ultimately the ability to continue operating,” a post on Raden’s website reads. “We sincerely apologize to those who chose to travel with us, our intent was to add ease and simplicity to your travel experience and this unforeseen policy change has made this impossible.”
The problem with the new policies, even for compliant companies like Raden, is that they’ve caused some confusion, both for fliers and airport and airline employees. Some fliers show up to the airport without knowing the new policies, while others who own suitcases with removable batteries still run into trouble. Twitter is dotted with complaints from exasperated fliers dating back months who were stuck transferring their stuff to a new bag last minute or nearly missing flights even if they were flying with compliant bags.
So my @away bag is causing quite a stir on @AmericanAir flight. Asked me to take out the battery from the bag and now we can’t get it out cus it has screws. And now they are trying to get it on the plane cus it can’t fly below. Why make a bag you can’t travel with...?— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) May 7, 2018
Customers of one of the only remaining smart luggage brands, Away, have had a particularly tricky time with the company’s first-generation bags, since the batteries are technically removable but only with a screwdriver. To get around this, the company came up with a way to modify the bags so that the battery easily pops out — though the change requires either a store visit or some DIY tinkering. “Very proud of the @away team for the herculean effort that went into doing the right thing for our earliest customers,” Away CEO Steph Korey wrote on Twitter earlier this week.
Raden hit the scene later than Away or Bluesmart, and it never offered quite the same robust amount of features as either of those companies. Instead, Raden’s spitfire CEO Josh Udashkin argued that his company wasn’t positioned against those competitors as much as it was standing with them, a collective force of disruption that luggage mainstays would soon have to reckon with.
“The truth is, and I don’t want to say this arrogantly, luggage is such a fucked category,” Udashkin told The Verge in early 2016. “Samsonite makes such a shitty product that it’s not even that difficult to think smarter than them. There’s no innovation.”