'Smart' luggage faces ban by airlines, regulators

December 05, 2017 // By Rich Pell
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that it could soon issue new industry-wide standards on 'smart' luggage - travel bags that include features like GPS location tracking, integrated scales for weighing themselves, and power storage for recharging devices.

The IATA's announcement comes after several U.S. airlines recently issued their own restrictions on smart bags, citing concerns over the products' integrated lithium ion battery packs. For example, America Airlines has stated that it would ban any such products containing non-removeable batteries starting on January 15th over concerns they would pose a risk when placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.

"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," the airline said in a statement. "Beginning Jan. 15, 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."

Both Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines have issued similar statements with the same deadline. Other airlines, such as United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, are currently reviewing the issue.

Smart luggage manufacturers include companies like BlueSmart, Raden, and Away, Barracuda, and Modobag. Away and Raden have indicated that batteries in their bags can be easily removed. For its part, BlueSmart - perhaps to be considered the first smart luggage company - says that its products comply with all international regulations defined by the DoT and FAA but is aware that the IATA and some airlines have recently made their own regulations with tighter requirements.

"We understand that there are some airport security concerns about travel technology and companies adhering to the various regulations and quality standards," the company said in a statement. "Before and at the time of production, we did our due diligence to make sure that we complied with all international regulations defined by DOT and FAA. While most airlines understand and approve of smart luggage, others might still be getting