Economy

Airlines restrict 'smart luggage' over fire hazards posed by batteries

Airlines restrict 'smart luggage' over fire hazards posed by batteries

Think twice about giving the gift of smart luggage this year.

Smart luggage boasts a number of features, usually including USB ports for recharging mobile devices, electronic locks, or alarms, and sometimes Bluetooth, GPS tracking, or internal weight scales.

The industry had resolved to ban smart bags by 2019, but because the risks of uncontrollable fire in the aircraft hold - out of sight of cabin crew and beyond their reach to extinguish it - are causing great concern, American Airlines made a decision to ban the bags last week, soon followed by Delta and Alaska.

"Smart luggage" - luggage that can charge phones or be driven around the airport - are hot ticket items this holiday, but they may be hard for travellers to use as some airlines have imposed bans on the new suitcases.

Smart bags will be allowed as carry-on baggage, if they meet carry-on size limits and if it's possible to remove the battery from the bag if needed.

"For this reason, we are taking a closer look at them now and our risky goods team confirms that we will likely adopt the same approach as other airlines", he said in an email statement.

"While these restrictions may pose a challenge to some of our guests, there have been no incidents to date with smart bags on airplanes and we want to keep it that way", he continued.

Lithium-ion batteries have already been banned on several airlines and global standards have been imposed by the worldwide Air Transport Association.

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Major U.S. airlines are moving to ban smart luggage due to safety concerns over their lithium-ion batteries. The move also follows a 2015 ban on hoverboards, which have been known to spontaneously combust. As long as the flyer powers off the smart bag, then they will not be required to do anything else.

But TSA does not approve or endorse bags.

A Southwest Airlines spokeswoman told Geek that the firm is "in the process of reviewing our policies and considering changes".

"The concern that airlines have is that power banks [like those installed on smart bags] have features prominently in fire incidents onboard", said IATA's David Brennan, who specializes in policies on the carriage of risky goods by air.

So, what does this mean for the thousands of smart suitcases already traveling the world?

"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. The company plans to meet with the airlines to potentially have the devices exempt, according to CNN. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed. Unzip the pouch, slide it out, and use it as a portable power bank.

"We know these bags are getting popular", Feinstein says.


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