Airlines restrict 'smart luggage' that uses lithium batteries


American Airlines recently announced that, beginning January 15, 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. The airlines fear the power banks will overheat and catch fire in the cargo hold.

Not a good thing to happen when it's in a jet's cargo hold.

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. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed.

Typically, airlines have allowed passengers to bring computers and other devices with lithium ion batteries on board, where any fire would be easier to extinguish. Beginning Jan. 15, 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. The only exception will be if the battery is removed from the bag on site and then carried on the plane by the customer separated from the bag itself.

American Airlines announced its ban on December 1, and other airlines have followed, including Alaska Airlines and Delta. However, if a customer is required to check their smart bag, the customer will need to remove the battery.

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

In addition, spokespeople for United Continental and Southwest Airlines said both airlines also plan to announce new smart bag policies soon.

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Last year, the FAA noted that their testing of plane fire safety showed that "current cargo fire suppression systems can not effectively control a lithium battery fire".

As mentioned above, the FAA recently released a recommendation that airlines prevent travelers from checking bags containing larger electronic devices with li-ion batteries.

"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", smart luggage company Bluesmart said in a statement.

One of the smart bag manufacturers, Bluesmart, says that it has sold 65,000 of them, and that it most recent version has sold out.

"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.

"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.