Airlines restrict 'smart luggage' that uses lithium batteries


American, Delta, and Alaska Airlines have all announced that on January 15, 2018, they will require the battery to be removed before allowing the bags on board. 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.

The bags, which have been growing in popularity, contain Global Positioning System tracking and can charge devices, weigh themselves or be locked remotely using mobile phones.

Airlines are anxious that the batteries could cause a fire in the cargo hold that would go undetected. Many require you to use a TSA-approved screwdriver to get to the batteries in an Away piece of luggage.

Is that hoverboard in your home - or next door - a fire waiting to happen? Delta and Alaska Airlines have both announced these bans and other major airlines have confirmed that they have similar plans in the pipeline.

Most airlines will allow smart luggage on their flights if the batteries are removed.

But they are powered by lithium ion batteries, which have been known to burst into flames on flights.

Smart luggage companies Away and Raden say on their websites that batteries in their bags can be easily removed.

"Devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be carried in carry-on baggage when possible".

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".

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said the carrier is "in the midst of reviewing their policies and considering changes".

As mentioned above, the FAA recently released a recommendation that airlines prevent travelers from checking bags containing larger electronic devices with li-ion batteries.

The companies say that such rulings aren't unexpected, and many built their luggage to have removable batteries.

Smart luggage manufacturers have pushed back.

But 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. One company, Bluesmart, said that more than 65,000 of its suitcases have safely traveled the world and that while they recognize the concerns, they have worked to ensure that they "complied with all global regulations defined by [the Department of Transportation] and FAA".

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.