American and Other Airlines To Ban Smart Bags

Starting on January 15 American Airlines will require passengers checking luggage to remove the lithium ion batteries installed in so-called

But airlines fear that the lithium ion batteries the bags carry could spark fires in overhead compartments or cargo holds.

So-called smart baggage has found a market niche among techie travelers by offering features like Global Positioning System tracking, enough smartphone re-charging power to get you to your destination and beyond, even a dubious method of transport around the terminal. The problem is, its lithium batteries cannot be removed.

But many are also powered by lithium batteries, which, according to a number of USA airlines, pose a risk when placed in the cargo hold of a plane. One company, Bluesmart, said that more than 65,000 of its suitcases have safely traveled the world and that while they recognize the concerns, they have worked to ensure that they "complied with all worldwide regulations defined by [the Department of Transportation] and FAA". A formal legal ban, by the U.N. International Civil Aeronautics Organization (ICAO), will follow at the beginning of 2019.

The earliest bans begin January 15, 2018. Passengers carrying smart luggage onboard must be able to show the battery can be removed if needed, and any smart bags with non-removable batteries will be banned.

"We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology but it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel", luggage maker Bluesmart said in a blog post. The risks are very real. If those fires and the battery fumes make contact with commonly packed items, like a can of hairspray or deodorant spray, they can set off an explosion powerful enough to do irrevocable damage to an aircraft.

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"Many smart bag manufacturers advertise their products as being approved by the Federal Aviation Administration or Transportation Security Administration, which may give customers the false impression that all smart bags are accepted for transport", Delta said in a press release.

The new restrictions by U.S. airlines are a blow to smart-luggage companies like Bluesmart, whose batteries are not removable. If the battery is permanently attached to the luggage, or if it can not easily be taken out, then it's a no-go, even if you don't plan to check it. United says they are planning to implement a similar policy and Southwest is undertaking a review. "It's something that airlines have been talking about for some time". The airlines will still allow travelers to bring the bags as carry-ons as long as the batteries are powered down according to existing Federal Aviation Administration regulations. "Better to tell passengers up front in advance", Brennan said. Bluesmart says it plans to meet with major airlines to discuss exempting its products from the restrictions, though Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for American Airlines, told NPR the airline won't allow any exceptions to its policies. Those policies were later reversed and replaced with new security procedures, once all parties shared information.

What's considered a "smart" bag?

If you already own smart baggage check to see if the battery is easily removable.

If the customer is able to take the bag into the cabin with them, the customer will be able to leave the battery installed.

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