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article imageMajor airlines set to ban ‘smart luggage’

By Tim Sandle     Dec 11, 2017 in Travel
The growing array for ‘smart luggage’, popular with business travelers, could be set for a ban for carriage by major airlines over safety fears. This relates to the embedded batteries found inside many smart cases.
The ban could be made by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), with the ban extending to all forms of ‘smart’ luggage. Included here are bags and cases that feature technologies like GPS location tracking, integrated scales (for self-weighing); and power storage functionality for recharging portable devices. Other suitcases are motorized and can follow the owner around.
For more details about smart luggage innovations, see the Digital Journal article “Smart luggage innovations for business travelers.”
The IATA expected announcement, according to Smart2Zero, follows several U.S. airlines, including America Airlines, which have put in place restrictions on smart bags. The concern here is safety, particularly in relation to the way smart luggage is powered, since many have integrated lithium ion battery packs. These types of batteries pose a fire risk. Similar concerns have been expressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN's aviation agency.
Hand luggage
Hand luggage
In addition, a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson told The Washington Post that the airlines' policies are "consistent with our guidance that lithium-ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold."
Tests carried out by the FAA have shown a single damaged or defective battery could experience uncontrolled temperature increases, a phenomenon known as thermal runaway, which poses a fire risk. Should such an event occur conventional fire-retardant chemicals on planes are not capable of putting out some of the lithium battery fires.
With American Airlines, which imposes its ban from 15 January, 2018, the global carrier has stated (as quoted by IB Times): “As part of safety management and risk mitigation, we always evaluate ways to enhance our procedures, and the Safety team at American has conducted its own analysis of these bags… If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed.”
So solution appears to be where battery packs can be removed. The problem is that the majority of smart luggage has power packs that are integrated into the baggage. However, some types of batteries can be removed from cases, including products manufactured by BlueSmart, Raden, and Away, Barracuda, Modobag and Raden.
Other airlines following American Airlines include Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Airlines yet to declare a view on smart luggage include United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
Commenting on the expected IATA move, BlueSmart has said: “We understand that there are some airport security concerns about travel technology…Before and at the time of production, we did our due diligence to make sure that we complied with all international regulations.”
BlueSmart go on to state that no further regulations are required and it has offered to meet with airlines to demonstrate how its products meet all safety requirements and regulations.
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