Most US Airlines Set To Limit Use Of 'Smart Bags'

Gladys Abbott
December 8, 2017

American, Delta and Alaska all say they will require customers to remove batteries from any smart bag they check and pack the batteries in a carry-on - similar to the way passengers are asked to bring spare batteries for other electronics in the cabin, where crew members can more easily identify an overheating device and quickly respond to a fire. "Customers who travel with a smart bag must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked at any point in the customer's journey". They're powered by lithium ion batteries, which pose a fire risk, especially in a crowded cargo hold.

Although most carriers will allow passengers to keep their smart luggage if batteries are removed, but many bags in the market have built-in batteries that can not be removed.

As with the hoverboard ban, other airlines, including American Airlines, have also implemented a smart bags ban.

The changes in policy - first the laptop ban and now the smart baggage ban - might be confusing to travelers, but the laptop ban was a unilateral decision taken by the USA and United Kingdom governments based on intelligence of threats to flights, without first consulting airlines.

This policy follows the FAA's general rules (PDF) regarding lithium ion batteries and also the growing concern by our industry around these batteries in our cargo areas.

American, Delta and Alaska airlines have all announced that as of January 15, travelers may no longer check smart bags unless their batteries can be removed. While it allows things like laptops to be checked, it suggests they be placed in carry-on bags instead.

Airlines fear the batteries may spark a fire if they're allowed to fly.

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An FAA spokesman told The Washington Post that the airlines' policies are "consistent with our guidance that lithium-ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold".

"Before and at the time of production, we did our due diligence to make sure that we complied with all worldwide regulations defined by DOT and FAA", one such company, Bluesmart, said on its website.

Other companies that make smart luggage with removable batteries, like Away, are taking a softer line in response to the news.

"We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology, but that it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel", said a statement from Bluesmart.

Some luggage makers advertise that their bags are "TSA-approved".

"As we speak, we are talking with the airlines so they can review our products and get the proper exemptions in place", Tomi Pierucci, co-founder and CEO of Bluesmart told Forbes. "American is not opposed to smart bags".

"We understand that there are some airport security concerns about travel technology and companies adhering to the various regulations and quality standards", the statement said.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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