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

07 December 2017

While most airlines understand and approve of smart luggage, others might still be getting up to speed.

Not a good thing to happen when it's in a jet's cargo hold.

"If the battery can not be removed, the bag will not be allowed", the airlines said.

Three U.S. airlines have announced new restrictions on so-called "smart bags" - a new breed of luggage that includes internal tracking devices and smartphone chargers - but may pose a risks to air travelers because the numerous bags are powered by lithium ion batteries that could potentially explode and catch fire.

The bags, which have been growing in popularity, contain Global Positioning System tracking and can charge devices, weigh themselves or be locked remotely using mobile phones. Most can follow their owners using a motor or can be used as a scooter. But numerous bags already on the market have batteries that can't be removed. Delta and Alaska Airlines have both announced these bans and other major airlines have confirmed that they have similar plans in the pipeline.

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If the customer is able to take the bag into the cabin with them, the customer will be able to leave the battery installed. Both airlines will requiring that even carry on bags must have the batteries that removed.

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said the carrier is "in the midst of reviewing their policies and considering changes". Between them, those five airlines handle more than 80% of US air traffic.

"[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.

"We love innovation and understand why smart bags are so appealing for travel", Alaska Airlines manager of risky goods Mike Tobin said in a statement.

But all those extras come with a hitch: namely that some are powered by lithium ion batteries, which in 2016, figured prominently the recall of roughly 2.5 million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after reports that their lithium ion batteries exploded.

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It said it would be holding meetings with airlines to try and ensure its products are exempt from any restrictions. No additional action will be required, as long as the customer powers off the smart bag in accordance with existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. The TSA said the bags are not on its list of prohibited items.

The companies say that such rulings aren't unexpected, and many built their luggage to have removable batteries.

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

And the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said it could issue industry-wide standards on the new luggage soon.

Last year, the FAA noted that their testing of plane fire safety showed that "current cargo fire suppression systems can not effectively control a lithium battery fire".

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