High-tech suitcases that charge your phone, open at a single touch, and track your valuables may make traveling less anxiety-reducing (lost luggage worries, begone!), but they unleash a whole new risk for airlines, which is why American Airlines is imposing new rules on them.Effective January 15, American Airlines won’t let passengers check their smart suitcases if the lithium-ion battery can’t be removed, the airline announced on Friday. We’ve looked at the prevalence of these bags as they most likely are going to be a hot item, no pun intended, this holiday season, a spokesperson for the airline told The New York Times. Just make sure the battery is removable, he continued. If it’s not removable, we won’t be permitting it to fly in the cargo hold or in the cabin.After American’s announcement, Delta announced similar restrictions beginning on the same date. According to CNBC, United Airlines and Southwest are working on policies as well. The Federal Aviation Administration already bans spare lithium-ion batteries in checked luggage because the powerful energy source has the potential to overheat.
The batteries particularly pose a high risk when luggage is stored in an aircraft’s cargo hold. Crew members are trained to put out fires in the main cabin with extinguishers and fire containment bags, but they are essentially powerless in reaching them in the hard-to-access luggage hold. If they aren’t checking their smart bag, passengers can leave the battery in the suitcase but it still must be removable.The new policy is related to current ones for laptops and hoverboards, which pose similar risks when checked. Passengers will have to remove the batteries with screwdrivers approved by TSA. Some high-tech suitcase manufacturers already include batteries that can be uninstalled, including Raden and Away. Raden’s battery is stored in a removable electronics pouch while Away includes a TSA-approved screwdriver in its products. The brand Bluesmart, however, does not allow its batteries to be removed, though according to its website, the batteries are installed to comply with industry regulations.
Source: Civil Aviation Authority, Qatar.