Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Delta, American Airlines place restrictions on smart bags

Delta, American Airlines place restrictions on smart bags

American, Delta and Alaska airlines have all announced that as of January 15, travelers may no longer check smart bags unless their batteries can be removed.

But for all those features, these pieces of luggage need power in the form of lithium-ion batteries, which are generally seen as fire risks on planes.

Smart bags contains Global Positioning System tracking devices and USB ports to charge smartphones and other 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. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed. 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.

Most airlines will allow smart luggage on their flights if the batteries are removed. "If the battery can not be removed, the bag will not be allowed", American said in a statement on Friday.

American Airlines announced its ban on December 1, and other airlines have followed, including Alaska Airlines and Delta. Both airlines will requiring that even carry on bags must have the batteries that removed.

"Devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be carried in carry-on baggage when possible.

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As this technology continues to evolve, we will work with the industry and our partner airlines to evaluate all safety policies and provide clear guidance regarding the safe use of smart bags".

The FAA is already concerned with lithium batteries in the cargo hold. 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.

Smart luggage manufacturers have pushed back.

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".

"Before and at the time of production, we did our due diligence to make sure that we complied with all global regulations defined by DOT and FAA", one such company, Bluesmart, said on its website.

American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott told the Chicago Tribune: 'We wanted to get out ahead of the holiday season given that it's one of the trendy gifts for travelers'.

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