Three US airlines announced new restrictions on so-called "smart bags", a new class of luggage that includes internal tracking devices and smart phone chargers, but that may pose a risk to the air travelers. because many of the bags are powered by lithium-ion batteries that could explode and catch fire.
US, Delta and Alaska airlines announced that, starting January 15, travelers will no longer be able to control smart bags unless their batteries can be eliminated. The airlines will still allow travelers to bring the bags as carry-on baggage, as long as the batteries are turned off in accordance with the regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration. The reason is that if a battery catches fire, it can be extinguished more easily in the passenger cabin, instead of in the cargo hold.
American Airlines explained the new policy, announced last week in this statement:  As part of managing safety and mitigating risks, we always evaluate ways to improve our procedures, and the team American Security has carried out its own analysis of these bags. As of January 15, customers traveling with a smart bag should be able to remove the battery in case the bag needs to be checked at any point of the customer's trip. If the battery can not be removed, the bag will not be allowed.
Airlines from Alaska and Delta quickly followed. Delta noted in its announcement that it has also taken special measures to handle such incidents.
With the proliferation of powerful lithium-ion batteries used in devices, and as a result of high-profile cases of overheating smartphones and other devices in flight Last year, Delta equipped all of its aircraft and regional jets operated by its Delta Connection partners with containment bags in the cabin in the event that a device powered by a lithium-ion battery experiences an on-board thermal leak or fire event.  A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said the company is "in the midst of reviewing its policies and considering changes." United Airlines officials have not answered questions about their policy.
Intelligent luggage manufacturers have regressed. One company, Bluesmart, said that more than 65,000 of its suitcases have traveled around the world and, while acknowledging the concerns, have worked to ensure that they "comply with all the international regulations defined by [the Department of Transportation] and the FAA."
"As we speak, we are talking to airlines so they can review our products and get the right exemptions in place," Tomi Pierucci, co-founder and executive director of Bluesmart told Forbes. "We fully comply with DOT and FAA and the law requires that the product be built in the same way as ours is, we are providing all the technical documentation and the DOT Interpretation Request as necessary."
The company added in a publication on its website:
While most airlines understand and approve smart baggage, others may be speeding up. We are saddened by these latest changes in some airline regulations and we feel that it is a step back not only for travel technology but also presents an obstacle to rationalize and improve the way we all travel.
However, in its publication, Delta Airlines offered this caution:
Many manufacturers of smart bags announce that their products are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration or the Transportation Security Administration, which can give customers the false impression that all smart bags are accepted for transport. To date, neither the TSA nor the FAA have approved an intelligent bag as approved.
For those new to the latest trend of luggage, smart bags are suitcases or laptop bags that offer built-in extras, such as the ability to charge or your phone or track it if it gets lost. Other bags are equipped with internal scales to weigh themselves and offer users the ability to lock them remotely with a smartphone application.
But all these extras come with one drawback: that is, some work with lithium-ion batteries, which in 2016 featured prominently the recall of approximately 2.5 million Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after reports that their batteries Lithium ions exploded. Those reports led DOT and the FAA to ban flight phones.
In an e-mailed statement, Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, said the airline's actions are "consistent with our guidance that Lithium-ion batteries should not be carried in the cargo hold. "