Airlines restrict smart bags over lithium-ion battery fire risk

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American, Delta and Alaska Airlines put limits on 'smart bags' starting Jan. 15

American was the first US carrier to announce a new policy Friday to require passengers checking smart luggage to remove the lithium ion batteries. The airline is placing restrictions on so-called "smart luggage" due to concerns that the lithium ion batteries that power some bags could pose a fire risk.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, Dallas-Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, have all released statements prohibiting transport of smart bags with non-removable batteries.

"We wanted to get out ahead of the holiday season given that it's one of the trendy gifts for travelers", said American spokeswoman Leslie Scott. However, smart bags contain lithium battery power banks, which pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.

Numerous bags rely on lithium-ion batteries, which can overheat and pose a fire hazard, Delta said.

Likely to be a popular gift this holiday season, these bags offer a variety of features, including Global Positioning System tracking, electronic locks and the ability to charge other electronic devices.

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Three US airlines have issued restrictions on certain "smart bags"-recently introduced high-tech luggage powered by lithium batteries-as checked-in baggage".

Southwest Airlines and United Continental are considering creating smart-bag policies. Some even a motor to propel the bags so that they can double as a scooter or just follow their owner around the airport.

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

"We love innovation and understand why smart bags are so appealing for travel", Alaska Airlines manager of risky goods Mike Tobin said. "To date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved". The only exception will be if the battery is removed from the bag on site and then carried on the plane by the customer separated from the bag itself.

"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", Delta said on its website. The company plans to meet with the airlines to potentially have the devices exempt, according to CNN. "We love innovation and understand why smart bags are so appealing for travel".

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