Alaska Airlines to put limits on 'smart bags' starting January 15

Newsroom - Travel Smart with Smart Bags - American Airlines Group, Inc.

This policy follows the FAA's general rules (PDF) regarding lithium ion batteries and also the growing concern by our industry around these batteries in our cargo areas. The rationale is that if a battery were to catch fire, it can more easily be extinguished in the passenger cabin, versus in the cargo hold.

The industry had resolved to ban smart bags by 2019, but because the risks of uncontrollable fire in the aircraft hold - out of sight of cabin crew and beyond their reach to extinguish it - are causing great concern, American Airlines made a decision to ban the bags last week, soon followed by Delta and Alaska.

The IATA issued guidance on smart luggage earlier this year, regarding the size and storage of lithium-ion batteries but did not ban them from cargo holds. Passengers carrying smart luggage onboard must be able to show the battery can be removed if needed, and any smart bags with non-removable batteries will be banned.

Smart suitcases can charge phones, weigh themselves, lock remotely, and can be tracked via Global Positioning System if they get lost. If those fires and the battery fumes make contact with commonly packed items, like a can of hairspray or deodorant spray, they can set off an explosion powerful enough to do irrevocable damage to an aircraft.

Many smart bag manufacturers advertise their products as being approved by the Federal Aviation Administration or Transportation Security Administration, which may give customers the false impression that all smart bags are accepted for transport.

"The new policies are banning luggage with non-removable batteries, and since every Away Carry-On has a removable battery, we're not impacted", Away co-founder and CEO Steph Korey says in a statement to The Verge.

If it's not possible to remove the battery from the bag, the bag won't be allowed on the plane. It even includes bag that will find and follow you. If United Continental and Southwest Airlines also enact similar smart-luggage policies (something they've already indicated will happen), then the bags will be subject to such rules in over 80 percent of USA air traffic. The airlines will still allow travelers to bring the bags as carry-ons as long as the batteries are powered down according to existing Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

"What you don't want is an argument with the passenger".

Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines announced similar policies to be effective by next January 15.

He also said the ban will not extend to otherwise ordinary luggage with smart features - like electronic bag tags - because the batteries that power those are very small. Officials from United Airlines have not responded to questions on their policy.

What's considered a "smart" bag?

If the customer is able to take the bag into the cabin with them, the customer will be able to leave the battery installed. Use a different bag when flying.

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