Airlines such as Delta, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines are announcing policies which restrict smart luggage from being brought aboard their flights unless their batteries can be removed.
American Airlines was the first to make the announcement to their customers saying, "Smart bags, also known as smart luggage, have become more popular over the last few months, and they are expected to be a popular gift this holiday season; however, smart bags contain lithium battery power banks, which pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft."
Airlines are concerned about the risk of batteries causing a fires, reports CNN Tech. Most of the restrictions still allow fliers to check the bags as long as the battery can be removed and stored with the passenger in the cabin. This poses a problem, as most of the bags already on the market do not have removable batteries.
Smart luggage has become increasingly popular, and for good reason: Brands like Away have USB ports so people can recharge their phones and other devices. Some brands even have GPS to track a bag if it gets lost, electronic locks, and weight scales to prevent overpacking.
Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines followed suit, announcing their own similar policies which are set to take effect on January 15. According to both airlines' policies, even carry-on bags must have the batteries removed. Additionally, spokespeople for both United Continental and Southwest Airlines have announced plans to implement smart bag policies soon as well. These five airlines represent 80 percent of U.S. air traffic.
The FAA has already expressed a concern with lithium batteries in laptops and phones being placed in the cargo hold. Currently, laptops are allowed to be checked, but the FAA suggests they be placed in carry-on luggage instead. It also requires the same of any spare lithium batteries. Spokesperson for the FAA, Laura Brown, supported the airlines' decision, saying their action "is consistent with our guidance to not carry lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold."
One smart bag manufacturer, Bluesmart, made a statement in response to the new policies. "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," read the statement. The company reports that it has recently sold 65,000 bags that do not have removable batteries. In the hope of exempting their product from the restrictions, Bluesmart has arranged meetings with the airlines to demonstrate their bags' safety.