Airlines restrict smart bags over lithium-ion battery fire risk

Brittany A. Roston - Dec 6, 2017
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Airlines restrict smart bags over lithium-ion battery fire risk

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. Delta and Alaska Airlines have both announced these bans and other major airlines have confirmed that they have similar plans in the pipeline. The move aims to protect aircraft from fires located in the cargo hold.

Smart luggage has grown in popularity over recent years due to the convenience it offers, but that convenience could come at a huge cost should such a bag start an undetected fire on an aircraft. This type of luggage typically contains a built-in lithium-ion battery used to power a GPS unit or offer phone charging via an integrated USB port.

Lithium-ion batteries are well known for being volatile; their tendency to explode is heavily documented, particularly in cases involving consumer devices with less than optimal construction. Everything from electric fidget spinners to “hoverboards” have caught on fire from overheated li-ion batteries.

Starting on January 15, both Alaska Airlines and Delta will ban smart bags containing non-removable lithium-ion batteries from being checked or brought on the plane as a carry-on. 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. This means certain smart bag owners will still get to use their luggage for air travel, just not during air travel.

Speaking to CNN, both Southwest and United have confirmed that they will soon announce their own smart bag restrictions. Similarly, American Airlines has announced a policy likewise requiring li-ion batteries to be removed from smart luggage. This is no doubt disappointing news for travelers who spent hundreds of dollars on connected travel bags, but it is a move that helps keep everyone safe.

As mentioned above, the FAA recently released a recommendation that airlines prevent travelers from checking bags containing larger electronic devices with li-ion batteries. That recommendation was made based on an analysis that found a fire resulting from one of these batteries could overtake an aircraft’s fire suppressant system, potentially resulting in the loss of the plane and everyone on it.


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