Beginning Monday, January 15, 2018, multiple airlines around the world will start enforcing a new rule. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has instructed its close to 300 airline members that “smart luggage” having removable installed lithium batteries must be carry-on baggage; if the battery is removed, the bag can be checked in; but if there is no way to remove the battery, the luggage is “forbidden for carriage.”
The technology-powered luggage appeared on the market several years ago, and new versions of the high-tech bags can do amazing things such as report their location, weigh themselves, provide Wi-Fi and power signals for various gadgets, and even follow travelers around!
However, there has been concern throughout the industry because lithium batteries were igniting and starting airplane fires an average of once every 10 days last year, according to the FAA.
American Airlines was one of the first carriers to advise its customers of this coming rule change and has added “smart bags” to its standard questions of fliers checking bags such as “Have you packed any e-cigarettes or extra batteries for cell phones, laptops, or cameras?”
Companies that manufacture smart bags that do not have lithium batteries are busy emphasizing that fact. Emran Sheikh, CEO and President of Heys International, a luggage manufacturer and distributor, told CNBC that they had already had the belief that lithium batteries could be a safety issue, so they purposely powered their baggage with regular AAA batteries since it is the type of battery that is the problem and not the “smart luggage” itself.
Some manufacturers are expected to release newly-designed versions of smart bags featuring safer power sources. In the meantime, other companies are busy instructing customers on how the lithium batteries can be removed from the luggage.