Monday, 11 December, 2017

Newsroom - Travel Smart with Smart Bags - American Airlines Group, Inc

Scott Olson Scott Olson
Nellie Chapman | 07 December, 2017, 04:30

Many smart bags could soon be banned on most USA flights. The airline is placing restrictions on so-called "smart luggage" due to concerns that the lithium ion batteries that power some bags could pose a fire risk.

Smart bags are luggage that contain USB ports to recharge phones, tablets, and laptops. They might also have Global Positioning System to track the bag's location in case it gets lost, electronic locks and a weight scale to prevent overpacking. Most can follow their owners using a motor or can be used as a scooter.

Not a good thing to happen when it's in a jet's cargo hold. The only exception will be if the battery is removed from the bag on site and then carried on the plane by the customer separated from the bag itself. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed.

Similarly, American Airlines has announced a policy likewise requiring li-ion batteries to be removed from smart luggage.

"Smart suitcases" may be able to charge mobile phones or be easily found if misplaced, but unless their battery can be removed they risk being sent packing by the world's airlines.

The policy goes into effect January 15, the same day Alaska Airlines implements its own smart-bag restrictions. If passengers need to check the bag, the battery must be removed and carried onboard.

Southwest Airlines and United Continental are considering creating smart-bag policies. Between them, those five airlines handle more than 80% of US air traffic.

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. We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology but it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel. It said it is arranging meetings with the airlines to demonstrate their bags' safety and hopes to have them exempt from the restrictions. No additional action will be required, as long as the customer powers off the smart bag in accordance with existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. But Delta points out that regulators have not specifically approved any company's smart bags.

The companies say that such rulings aren't unexpected, and many built their luggage to have removable batteries. It also requires that any spare lithium batteries travel only in carry-on baggage with passengers.

This policy follows the FAA's general rules (PDF) regarding lithium ion batteries and also the growing concern by our industry around these batteries in our cargo areas.