Amid concerns of having batteries within a bag to cause potential hazards, two Australian carriers have joined several US based airlines in making partial or full bans for smart luggage. The move could set a precedent for other airlines in Asia and the Pacific to follow.
Qantas and Virgin Australia have announced the new policy, with two slight differences in its implementation. Qantas is banning the suitcases with non-removable batteries in both as check-in and carry-on. Passengers on Virgin Australia can take smart bags as carry on, but will not allow the cases to have batteries on checked luggage. Any luggage intended for check-in with non-removable luggage will not be allowed on the flight.
In a statement, Virgin Australia emphasized their policy regarding the use of the smart luggage in aircraft cabins. “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."
Smart luggage tech have been introduced to the travel scene lately, offering passengers features such as charging devices, locking the luggage and tracking the bag via a mobile device. However, aviation industry officials have expressed concerns surrounding the potential fire hazard of having the lithium ion batteries on such devices while inflight. The new moves have followed last years move by airlines around the world to ban the use of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 mobile devices.
The Australian based carriers follow the recent announcements from US based airlines such as American Airlines, Delta, and Alaska Airlines new policies for smart luggage. New announcements could be followed by other players in the industry, as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is expected to make an announcement for system-wide guidelines regarding smart luggage.
In response to future policy announcements by other airlines around the world, several smart luggage makers have already introduced new bags where batteries can be removed. While some are adhering to the changes, some smart luggage makers have expressed concerns about the new policies and its implications on travel technology. Among those voicing their objections are Bluesmart CEO Tomi Pierucci, who was quoted in a TechCrunch article saying: “The latest changes are an absolute travesty and is a huge step back not only for travel technology but it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel.”
He added: “If they are going to ban smart bags, then they should be banning cameras, laptops, and phones being checked in or carried on. All of these have at some point caused issues with exploding batteries and yet it is smart bags and Bluesmart that is getting punished for this.”
While Pierucci stated his company's luggage adheres to US aviation and security requirements, Delta Airlines issued a statement saying: “Many smart bag manufacturers advertise their products as being approved by the Federal Aviation Administration or Transportation Security Administration, which may give customers the false impression that all smart bags are accepted for transport.” It added: “to date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved,” Delta warned in its statement.
While smart luggages are still relatively new for Asian travellers, soon there will be the need for Asian airlines to issue their own policies on the matter similar to how the ban for Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices on flights worldwide was handled last year. We can expect IATA to make an industry-wide policy statement very soon.