Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

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

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

Effective Jan. 15, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines will no longer check smart luggage with non-removable batteries-which could overheat and become a fire hazard during flight.

Most airlines will allow smart luggage on their flights if the batteries are removed, but some smart luggage bags don't give users that option.

In addition, spokespeople for United Continental and Southwest Airlines said both airlines also plan to announce new smart bag policies soon. But airlines fear that the lithium ion batteries the bags carry could spark fires in overhead compartments or cargo holds.

Smart bags have grown in popularity with travelers over the years because they offer USB ports where customers can charge their phones and other tech devices. The rationale is that if a battery were to catch fire, it can more easily be extinguished in the passenger cabin, versus in the cargo hold.

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The move to restrict luggage with built-in batteries was spearheaded by American Airlines and the International Air Transport Association in order to decrease the risk of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. Per CNN, Delta and Alaska's policies will even apply to carry-on bags, and will go into effect on January 15th, 2018.

Travelers will still be allowed to check smart luggage with removable batteries, provided they take those batteries with them in the cabin.

But all those extras come with a hitch: namely that some are powered by lithium ion batteries, which in 2016, figured prominently the recall of roughly 2.5 million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after reports that their lithium ion batteries exploded. 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.

Bluesmart said its bags comply with current federal regulations from the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.

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"Spare (uninstalled) lithium metal and lithium ion batteries are always prohibited in checked baggage and must be placed in carry-on".

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In a statement to CNN, Bluesmart wrote that they 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". But now that we live in an era where airline security procedures are increasingly eating into the convenience of air travel, smart luggage also just got a lot less useful. To date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved.

One can only assume that there's a security risk from non-removable batteries that airport security can't check-out.

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