Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Alaska Airlines to put limits on 'smart bags' starting January 15

Alaska Airlines to put limits on 'smart bags' starting January 15

A spokesman for American tells NPR that rules banning the bags' powerful lithium batteries from checked baggage aren't because they're more likely to catch fire in a cargo hold, but because it's hard to fight a fire that breaks out there.

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.

Smart luggage bags have features like USB ports that can be used to charge phones or laptops, motors, and tracking systems.

Airlines are anxious that the batteries could cause a fire in the cargo hold that would go undetected. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed. Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines have also announced similar policies, effective January 15.

Although most of the airlines will allow passengers to travel with the smart bags if the battery is removed, but numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed.

Under the restrictions, the bags only will be permitted on a flight if the lithium batteries have been removed.

Smart luggage companies Away and Raden say on their websites that batteries in their bags can be easily removed. The problem is, its lithium batteries cannot be removed.

Southwest Airlines and United Continental are considering creating smart-bag policies.

As mentioned above, the FAA recently released a recommendation that airlines prevent travelers from checking bags containing larger electronic devices with li-ion batteries. Bags with non-removable batteries will not be allowed in either carry-on or checked baggage.

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.

"Before and at the time of production, we did our due diligence to make sure that we complied with all global regulations defined by DOT and FAA", one such company, Bluesmart, said on its website.

Last year, the FAA noted that their testing of plane fire safety showed that "current cargo fire suppression systems can not effectively control a lithium battery fire".

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.

"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 a statement from Bluesmart.

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