To mitigate the risk of fire, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have instituted restrictions on “smart bags” containing lithium-ion battery-power banks. The airlines fear the power banks will overheat and catch fire in the cargo hold.
Smart bags are luggage that contain USB ports to recharge phones, tablets, and laptops. The bags also contain a GPS so they can be tracked if lost, and scales to prevent overweight bags. Most can follow their owners using a motor or can be used as a scooter.
Under the restrictions, the bags only will be permitted on a flight if the lithium batteries have been removed. Bags with non-removable batteries will not be allowed in either carry-on or checked baggage.
This policy is similar to Delta’s policy requiring customers to keep spare lithium-ion batteries in their carry-on luggage.
“Power banks are considered spare batteries and must be individually protected from short-circuit and carried in carry-on baggage only,” according to the International Air Transport Association’s 2017 Lithium Battery Guidance Document.
The policy goes into effect Jan. 15, the same day Alaska Airlines implements its own smart-bag restrictions.
Southwest Airlines and United Continental are considering creating smart-bag policies.
Bluesmart, a smart-bag manufacturer, said it was saddened by the airlines’ policies.
“[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.