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Airlines moving to ban 'smart' luggage over fire concerns

Airlines moving to ban 'smart' luggage over fire concerns

Following an FAA recommendation that airlines ban some devices containing lithium-ion batteries from checked baggage that comes a crackdown on "smart bags" containing them.

To mitigate the risk of fire, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have instituted restrictions on "smart bags" containing lithium-ion battery-power banks.

Smart luggage bags have features like USB ports that can be used to charge phones or laptops, motors, and tracking systems. The move aims to protect aircraft from fires located in the cargo hold. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed.

American Airlines announced its ban on December 1, and other airlines have followed, including Alaska Airlines and Delta. Everything from electric fidget spinners to "hoverboards" have caught on fire from overheated li-ion batteries.

Although most of the airlines will allow passengers to travel with the smart bags if the battery is removed, but numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed.

Most airlines will allow smart luggage on their flights if the batteries are removed, but some smart luggage bags don't give users that option.

Smart luggage companies Away and Raden say on their websites that batteries in their bags can be easily removed.

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"Spare (uninstalled) lithium metal and lithium ion batteries are always prohibited in checked baggage and must be placed in carry-on".

The FAA is already concerned with lithium batteries in the cargo hold.

Smart luggage manufacturers have pushed back.

In an emailed statement, Laura Brown, a spokeswoman with the FAA, said the airlines' actions are "consistent with our guidance that lithium ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold". One company, Bluesmart, said that more than 65,000 of its suitcases have safely traveled the world and that while they recognize the concerns, they have worked to ensure that they "complied with all global regulations defined by [the Department of Transportation] and FAA".

"As this technology continues to evolve, we will work with the industry and our partner airlines to evaluate all safety policies and provide clear guidance regarding the safe use of smart bags".

"As we speak, we are talking with the airlines so they can review our products and get the proper exemptions in place", Tomi Pierucci, co-founder and CEO of Bluesmart told Forbes.

Smart bags, also known as smart luggage, have become more popular over the last few months, and they are expected to be a popular gift this holiday season.