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Airlines Restrict 'Smart Luggage' Over Fire Hazards Posed By Batteries

Airlines Restrict 'Smart Luggage' Over Fire Hazards Posed By Batteries

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. 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 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.

This type of luggage typically contains a built-in lithium-ion battery used to power a Global Positioning System unit or offer phone charging via an integrated USB port.

Many smart bags could soon be banned on most US flights.

Lithium ion battery and motor allowing it to be used as a personal transportation device, either as a stand-up scooter or sit-on vehicle. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed.

American's policy dictates that if the bag is carry-on size, passengers can take the luggage onboard, so long as the battery can be removed if needed. Both airlines will requiring that even carry on bags must have the batteries that removed.

United Continental and Southwest Airlines said both airlines also plan to announce new smart bag policies soon. Between them, those five airlines handle more than 80% of US air traffic.

Top 5 mistakes Canadian travellers make
Top 5 mistakes Canadian travellers make

"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, which says more than 65,000 of its suitcases are being used around the world, said its batteries can not be removed but that its products meet all safety regulations and requirements.

Lithium-ion batteries are well known for being volatile; their tendency to explode is heavily documented, particularly in cases involving consumer devices with less than optimal construction.

It said it would be holding meetings with airlines to try and ensure its products are exempt from any restrictions. But Delta points out that regulators have not specifically approved any company's smart bags.

This policy is similar to Delta's policy requiring customers to keep spare lithium-ion batteries in their carry-on luggage.

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

"Spare (uninstalled) lithium metal and lithium ion batteries are always prohibited in checked baggage and must be placed in carry-on".





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