Are AirTags Allowed In Checked Luggage? Here's What The FAA Rules Say

It's always a bit worrying sending our belongings like jewelry or gifts into the hopefully trusting hands of whichever airline we're flying. U.S. airlines lose approximately 2 million pieces of luggage each year. While that sounds like plenty, they handle hundreds of millions, and so that lost amount only accounts for less than 1% of all bags. Most bags, like people, make it to their destinations. Regardless, Apple AirTags certainly help offset that tension, allowing users to monitor the location of that beloved suitcase like we're a character in the "Bourne" series.

But can you use them? A device with a battery and signal surely can't be allowed in the bowels of a plane where you're supposed to turn your phones on airplane mode, but it is. According to the FAA (PDF), location tracking devices powered by lithium batteries are allowed in baggage on U.S. flights (and most other countries), as long as the batteries do not exceed 0.3 grams of lithium metal. The AirTags come in under that threshold with just 0.1 grams of lithium. Apple probably did some research on this before releasing them.

Why airlines were concerned about AirTags

The main concern is with the somewhat rare occurrence of the lithium batteries short-circuiting and producing thermal runaway, in which the battery overheats and potentially catches fire. This can be the result if the batteries are improperly used, charged, or stored. Such fires are difficult to put out to begin with, and one in the cargo hold would be especially difficult to get to and extinguish. Therefore, precautions have been taken regarding the size and types of batteries allowed onto the plane. There are no reports as of yet involving AirTags catching fire, and they're generally clear to go. A smart bag like this T-Mobile version, however, can only be checked if the batteries are removed from them beforehand.

In any case, it can certainly provide peace of mind to use Apple's "Find My" network and watch as your bag leaves your side and boards the plane separately. But just as it's statistically rare for your bag to get lost, the AirTag won't necessarily prevent your bag from getting lost in the first place. Instead, you'll watch helplessly as it doesn't move from the wrong location, but will be able to inform the airline in case they don't know where it is, and likely get it back faster as a result.