Delta, American Airlines place restrictions on smart bags

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.

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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.