Airlines: "Smart Bags" Pose Explosion Risk



American, Delta and Alaska airlines have all announced that as of January 15, travelers may no longer check smart bags unless their batteries can be removed.

Following an FAA recommendation that airlines ban some devices containing lithium-ion batteries from checked baggage that comes a crackdown on "smart bags" containing them.

Three U.S. airlines have announced new restrictions on so-called "smart bags" - a new breed of luggage that includes internal tracking devices and smartphone chargers - but may pose a risks to air travelers because the numerous bags are powered by lithium ion batteries that could potentially explode and catch fire.

The bags generally have USB ports where customers can recharge their phones and other devices.

Not a good thing to happen when it's in a jet's cargo hold. Many require you to use a TSA-approved screwdriver to get to the batteries in an Away piece of luggage.

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.

Even if your bag's battery is removable, that doesn't mean removing it is convenient. However, if a customer is required to check their smart bag, the customer will need to remove the battery.

United says they are planning to implement a similar policy and Southwest is undertaking a review.

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. The problem is, its lithium batteries cannot be removed. But some smart luggage doesn't allow the battery to be removed. "When a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or at planeside, any spare lithium batteries must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin".

For manufacturers of luggage with nonremovable batteries, the airlines' restrictions are a blow. 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 worldwide regulations defined by [the Department of Transportation] and FAA".

"We know these bags are getting popular", Feinstein says.

The concern is that lithium ion batteries, used in computers, tablets, phone chargers and other devices, can explode and catch fire when damaged.

"[We] 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.

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