Airlines announce new policies concerning Smart Luggage

Elias Hubbard
December 7, 2017

Just ahead of the holiday season, three airlines announced that starting on January 15, they will no longer accept so-called "smart" bags or smart luggage that does not have removable lithium-ion batteries, due to their potential to overheat and pose a fire risk during flight.

American Airlines announced its ban on December 1, and other airlines have followed, including Alaska Airlines and Delta.

So-called "smart suitcases" are getting their first taste of pushback, with airlines and trade associations calling for more guidance on luggage that will also charge your phone. 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".

Smart bags are luggage that contain USB ports to recharge phones, tablets, and laptops. This means certain smart bag owners will still get to use their luggage for air travel, just not during air travel.

Airlines are anxious that the batteries could cause a fire in the cargo hold that would go undetected.

"If the battery can not be removed, the bag will not be allowed", the airlines said. In the future, only bags with removable batteries will be allowed to fly. 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". If the bag will be traveling in the cabin, the battery can remain installed as long as it is powered off.

"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 on its website.

What's considered a "smart" bag?

New York-based Bluesmart, a leading manufacturer of smart bag technology, issued a statement saying that all of its products are compatible with FAA, DOT, FCC and United Nations 38.3 regulations. "We love innovation and understand why smart bags are so appealing for travel".

"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.

Bluesmart said the company is organizing meetings with the world's major airlines and will demonstrate how its products meet all safety requirements and regulations.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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