American, Delta and Alaska all say they will require customers to remove batteries from any smart bag they check and pack the batteries in a carry-on - similar to the way passengers are asked to bring spare batteries for other electronics in the cabin, where crew members can more easily identify an overheating device and quickly respond to a fire. But smart bags with built-in lithium-ion batteries pose a risk in the cargo area at 30,000 feet, airlines say.
Smart Luggage is poised to become one of the top gifts this season but its already being banned.
The restrictions, set to take effect January 15, 2018, adhere to FAA guidelines regarding lithium ion batteries, which are restricted from airline cargo holds for fears of the batteries' possible ignition in an uncontainable space.
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.
"No additional action will be required", American Airlines said, "as long as the customer powers off the smart bag in accordance with existing FAA regulations". Airlines fear the batteries may catch on fire once on the plane.
Lithium-ion batteries are well known for being volatile; their tendency to explode is heavily documented, particularly in cases involving consumer devices with less than optimal construction.
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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. Some even have motors allowing them to be used as sit-on transportation devices, or can enable the bag to follow its owner.
The problem with smart luggage is particularly noteworthy because airlines have been marketing basic economy fares that often don't allow for full-size carry-on luggage, thereby forcing those passengers to check their bags.
And the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said it could issue industry-wide standards on the new luggage soon. "To date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved".
While most airlines understand and approve of smart luggage, others might still be getting up to speed.
New York-based Bluesmart, a leading manufacturer of smart bag technology, issued a statement saying that all of its products are compatible with FAA, DOT, FCC and United Nations 38.3 regulations. The company plans to meet with the airlines to potentially have the devices exempt, according to CNN.