Airlines are banning 'smart' luggage

Newsroom - Travel Smart with Smart Bags - American Airlines Group, Inc.

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

Airlines including American, Delta and Alaska have announced restrictions on so-called smart luggage because the lithium-ion batteries found in many of these suitcases pose a fire risk. That is only if the battery can be separated from the bag at any point that the airline requires it. If United Continental and Southwest Airlines also enact similar smart-luggage policies (something they've already indicated will happen), then the bags will be subject to such rules in over 80 percent of USA air traffic. But li-ion batteries have the potential to overheat and ignite, as shown in dramatic fashion by the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which the Department of Transportation banned from flights last fall after dozens of reports of the smartphone's batteries smoking, catching fire and exploding In 2015, many airlines banned hoverboards owing to similar concerns.

Smart luggage tends to offer features appealing to business travelers, including USB ports for on-the-go charging, electronic locks, and GPS tracking systems. 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. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed. The same day, Delta and Alaska announced similar policies on their flights. As of April 1, 2016, lithium-ion batteries are prohibited as cargo on passenger aircrafts.

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.

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. As long as the flyer powers off the smart bag, then they will not be required to do anything else.

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Travelers will still be allowed to check smart luggage with removable batteries, provided they take those batteries with them in the cabin. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects to industry-wide "guidance to be issued potentially this week", a representative said in a media hearing.

"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", Bluesmart said in a statement.

But TSA does not approve or endorse bags.

"We wanted to get out ahead of the holiday season given that it's one of the trendy gifts for travelers", said American spokeswoman Leslie Scott.

"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.

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