Most US Airlines Set To Limit Use Of 'Smart Bags'

Scott Olson

Scott Olson

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Alaska Airlines have all announced restrictions on the smart luggage due to the lithium-ion batteries that power the bags. If those fires and the battery fumes make contact with commonly packed items, like a can of hairspray or deodorant spray, they can set off an explosion powerful enough to do irrevocable damage to an aircraft.

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

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.

And those batteries have the potential to overheat and ignite, something that airlines are especially wary of after dozens of reports of last year's Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries smoking and catching fire.

Numerous bags rely on lithium-ion batteries, which can overheat and pose a fire hazard, Delta said.

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. "If the battery can not be removed, the bag will not be allowed", American said in a statement on Friday.

"Spare (uninstalled) lithium metal and lithium ion batteries are always prohibited in checked baggage and must be placed in carry-on". But if the bag has a nonremovable battery, it can't be checked or carried on.

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Not a good thing to happen when it's in a jet's cargo hold. But airlines fear that the lithium ion batteries the bags carry could spark fires in overhead compartments or cargo holds. If a fire starts there, the crew can use fire suppression bottles to fight it, "but you can only deploy them once".

"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", luggage maker Bluesmart said in a blog post.

Bluesmart said its bags comply with current federal regulations from the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.

"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 Bluesmart, a smart bag manufacturer whose batteries can not be removed, in a statement to CNN. To date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved.

This policy will apply to all American and American Eagle flights.

"We wanted to get out ahead of the holiday season given that it's one of the trendy gifts for travelers", said American spokeswoman Leslie Scott. "Raden's battery is completely removable".

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