Major U.S. airlines are moving to ban smart luggage due to safety concerns over their lithium-ion batteries. American Airlines released a statement Dec. 1 asking customers to remove their batteries from their smart luggage because of "safety management and risk mitigation" beginning Jan. 15, 2018.
"Smart bags contain lithium battery power banks pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft," American Airlines said. "Customers who travel with a smart bag must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked at any point in the customer's journey. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed."
Smart bags have grown in popularity with travelers over the years because they offer USB ports where customers can charge their phones and other tech devices. The luggage can also include features like GPS tracking to locate the bag in case it is lost, electronic locks, a weight scale and capabilities to propel a bag so it doubles as a scooter.
Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines have also announced similar policies against smart luggage to take effect on Jan. 15. United and Southwest Airlines also plan to announce new smart bag policies soon.
A major smart bag manufacturer, Bluesmart, criticized the ban.
"We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology, but that it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel," Bluesmart said in a statement.
Bluesmart said its bags comply with current federal regulations from the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.
However, the aviation administration is concerned about the lithium-ion batteries.
"The airlines' action is consistent with our guidance to not carry lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold," agency spokeswoman Laura Brown said.
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