Airlines restrict “smart luggage“ over fire risk from batteries

Leading US airlines have all agreed that the so called 'smart luggage' will need to be dumbed from flights, CNN reported yesterday.

Carriers including American, Delta, and Alaska now ask passengers to remove lithium-based batteries from the bags and carry them on their person before bringing them in the aircraft, citing the risk that the batteries could start a fire that could burn through other luggage.

However, batteries in many smart luggage lines are non-removable.

American Airlines said in a statement to CNN that the batteries ''pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.''

If United, Continental and Southwest Airlines were to also introduce similar smart-luggage policies, which they had indicated would happen, then the smart luggage will be subject to such rules in over 80 per cent of US air traffic.

ccording to CNN, Delta and Alaska's policies will even apply to carry-on bags, and will go into effect on 15 January  2018.

Smart luggage comes with a number of features, which usually include USB ports for recharging mobile devices, electronic locks, or alarms, and sometimes Bluetooth, GPS tracking, or internal weight scales. A few models come with motors to double-function as scooters or just to help customers lug them around airports.

"Beginning Jan 15, customers who travel with a smart bag must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked at any point in the customer's journey. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed," American said in a statement on Friday.

According to American's policy, if the bag is carry-on size, passengers can take the luggage onboard, as long as the battery can be removed if needed. In case passengers need to check the bag, the battery must be removed and carried onboard, but bags with non-removable battery, cannot be checked or carried on.

The Washington Post quoted an FAA spokesman as saying that the airlines' policies are "consistent with our guidance that lithium-ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold."