American and Other Airlines To Ban Smart Bags

Scott Olson

Carriers including American, Delta, and Alaska are requiring customers remove lithium-based batteries from the bags and carry them personally before stowing them in their aircraft, citing the risk that the batteries could start a fire that burns through other luggage-with one big problem being that the batteries in many smart luggage lines are non-removable.

Tim Ryan, chief marketing officer at Chicago-based smart bag-maker Modobag, said its batteries are removable, though the company may consider making batteries easier to remove in an upcoming line of smart bags that are created to be checked. United and Southwest are expected to announce similar bans soon, according to CNN. Josh Udashkin, CEO of smart luggage brand Raden, says, "The only issue with some smart luggage brands is that their lithium ion battery is NOT removable".

Likely to be a popular gift this holiday season, these bags offer a variety of features, including Global Positioning System tracking, electronic locks and the ability to charge other electronic devices. If damaged, these batteries can enter a state called "thermal runaway", generating enough heat to catch fire that runs hot enough to burn through the fire-proof cargo containers on planes.

The batteries are in many electronics these days, because they are extremely efficient.

American Airlines announced its ban on December 1, and other airlines have followed, including Alaska Airlines and Delta. The problem is, its lithium batteries cannot be removed.

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 chose to ban the bags last week, soon followed by Delta and Alaska.


If the bag will fly as a checked bag, the battery must be removed and the battery must be carried in the cabin.

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.

Bluesmart also says its bags comply with the current federal regulations from the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission. While it allows things like laptops to be checked, it suggests they be placed in carry-on bags instead. But now that we live in an era where airline security procedures are increasingly eating into the convenience of air travel, smart luggage also just got a lot less useful.

"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.

"We know these bags are getting popular", he said. To date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved.

If you already own smart baggage check to see if the battery is easily removable.

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