Airlines moving to ban 'smart' luggage over fire concerns


American, Delta, and Alaska Airlines have all announced that on January 15, 2018, they will require the battery to be removed before allowing the bags on board. However, smart bags contain lithium battery power banks, which pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.

Global airlines body IATA said it could issue industry-wide standards on the new luggage soon, after some USA airlines issued their own restrictions on smart bags, whose manufacturers include companies such as BlueSmart, Raden or Away.

The bags, which have been growing in popularity, contain Global Positioning System tracking and can charge devices, weigh themselves or be locked remotely using mobile phones. Many require you to use a TSA-approved screwdriver to get to the batteries in an Away piece of luggage. The same day, Delta and Alaska announced similar policies on their flights.

Under the restrictions, the bags only will be permitted on a flight if the lithium batteries have been removed. Both airlines will requiring that even carry on bags must have the batteries that removed.

Southwest Airlines and United Continental are considering creating smart-bag policies.

"Devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be carried in carry-on baggage when possible".

The FAA is already concerned with lithium batteries in the cargo hold. Bags with non-removable batteries will not be allowed in either carry-on or checked baggage.

For manufacturers of luggage with nonremovable batteries, the airlines' restrictions are a blow.

"We love innovation and understand why smart bags are so appealing for travel", Alaska Airlines manager of unsafe goods Mike Tobin said in a statement.

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

In an emailed statement, Laura Brown, a spokeswoman with the FAA, said the airlines' actions are "consistent with our guidance that lithium ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold".

Smart bags, also known as smart luggage, have become more popular over the last few months, and they are expected to be a popular gift this holiday season.

"We know these bags are getting popular", Feinstein says.

"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.