Airlines including American, Delta and Alaska have announced restrictions on so-called smart luggage because the lithium-ion batteries found in many of these suitcases pose a fire risk. When these devices must be carried in checked baggage, they should be turned completely off, protected from accidental activation, and packed so they are protected from damage.
Airlines are anxious that the batteries could cause a fire in the cargo hold that would go undetected. If the battery requires hardware to remove it, or can't quickly be taken out of the bag, then your safest bet is to use that bag for road trips, or on a cruise.
Equipping luggage with built-in, highly flammable, lithium-ion batteries was never a good idea, but that didn't stop some manufacturers from trying. However, if a customer is required to check their smart bag, the customer will need to remove the battery.
Although most carriers will allow passengers to keep their smart luggage if batteries are removed, but many bags in the market have built-in batteries that can not be removed. While it allows things like laptops to be checked, it suggests they be placed in carry-on bags instead.
And in the case of a bag having a non removable battery, those can not be checked or carried onto the flight.
"You have very limited options in the cargo hold", American spokesman Ross Feinstein says. The airline announced the policy last week, citing concerns about the hazards of placing lithium-ion battery power banks in the cargo hold.
"In the cabin, passengers and crew can fight a fire", he adds.
While there aren't any specific regulations governing the design and manufacturing of luggage, concern has reached a point where ICAO, working with aviation regulators, airlines, and IATA, felt that they had to take action.
The new restrictions by USA airlines are a blow to smart-luggage companies like Bluesmart, whose batteries are not removable.
"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", Bluesmart said in a statement. To date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved. And Feinstein says that on American, there won't be any exemptions to its policies, no matter the manufacturer.
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