Delta, American Airlines place restrictions on smart bags

Andrew Cummings
December 7, 2017

US based carriers American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta (DAL.N) and Alaska Airlines (ALK.N) all said last week that as of January 15, 2018, they would require the battery to be removed before allowing the bags on board. This guidance has been issued due to the inconsistent nature of lithium batteries and the potential threat they pose when placed in a cargo hold.

Airlines could ban so-called "smart" suitcases from all flights because their batteries pose a fire risk, officials have said.

With the proliferation of powerful lithium-ion batteries used in devices, and as a result of high-profile instances of overheating smartphones and other devices in flight, Delta previous year equipped all of its aircraft as well as regional jets operated by its Delta Connection partners with in-cabin containment bags in the event a device powered by a lithium-ion battery experiences a thermal runaway event or fire on board.

Airlines are anxious that the batteries could cause a fire in the cargo hold that would go undetected.

The batteries are in many electronics these days, because they are extremely efficient. Beginning Jan. 15, customers who travel with a smart bag must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked at any point in the customer's journey.

Smart bags will be allowed as carry-on baggage, if they meet carry-on size limits and if it's possible to remove the battery from the bag if needed. Both airlines will requiring that even carry on bags must have the batteries that removed.

United says they are planning to implement a similar policy and Southwest is undertaking a review. The problem is, its lithium batteries cannot be removed.

As mentioned above, the FAA recently released a recommendation that airlines prevent travelers from checking bags containing larger electronic devices with li-ion batteries.

Smart luggage manufacturers have pushed back.

An FAA spokesman told The Washington Post that the airlines' policies are "consistent with our guidance that lithium-ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold".

"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.

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

American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott told the Chicago Tribune: 'We wanted to get out ahead of the holiday season given that it's one of the trendy gifts for travelers'.

Bluesmart, a smart-bag manufacturer, said it was saddened by the airlines' policies.

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