Qantas and Virgin follow US airlines to ban smart luggage

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  • Airlines are starting to announce policies to ban smart luggage that includes non-removable lithium ion batteries on their flights.
  • Qantas and Virgin are the first local carriers to announce a ban on the suitcases.
  • In the US American Airlines, Delta, and Alaska Airlines have already done so with bans expected to take effect on January 15.

The future of luggage may be delayed, as airlines are set to ban smart luggage that includes non-removable lithium-ion batteries.

Virgin Australia says that passengers would only be allowed to use the bags as carry-on luggage.

“In the event that the guest’s smart bag is too heavy, the lithium battery must be removed and carried as a spare battery in carry-on baggage. If the lithium battery cannot be removed, the smart bag cannot be carried on our aircraft,” the airline said.

Qantas will not allow cases on its planes at all if the batteries cannot be removed.

The local airlines follow those in the US which announced they would ban the high-tech bags at the start of the month.

American Airlines announced its ban on December 1, and other airlines have followed, including Alaska Airlines and Delta. United and Southwest are also expected to announce similar policies, according to CNN. The first bans are set to go into effect on January 15.

Smart luggage bags have features like USB ports that can be used to charge phones or laptops, motors, and tracking systems. But airlines fear that the lithium ion batteries the bags carry could spark fires in overhead compartments or cargo holds.

Modobag makes motorised luggage you can ride through airports. Modobag

“We love innovation and understand why smart bags are so appealing for travel,” Alaska Airlines manager of dangerous goods Mike Tobin said in a statement. “While these restrictions may pose a challenge to some of our guests, there have been no incidents to date with smart bags on aeroplanes and we want to keep it that way.”

Most airlines will allow smart luggage on their flights if the batteries are removed, but some smart luggage bags don’t give users that option.

“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,” smart luggage company Bluesmart said in a statement. “While most airlines understand and approve of smart luggage, others might still be getting up to speed. We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology but it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel.”