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Some airlines have banned smart baggage from their flights, and this has caused a little confusion in the industry. What is a smart luggage and what has changed?

What is a Smart Bag?

Smart luggage is luggage that contains a battery used to power itself or to recharge other devices. The phrase “smart” refers to the additional capabilities that the bag offers as a result of having this power supply.

Batteries in luggage can cause problems for airlines when they are lithium metal or lithium ion batteries. Unfortunately, these are the most common types of batteries in personal electronic devices, such as smart phones.

The good news: If you can remove the battery from the smart bag, then you can still travel with the bag as the bag without the installed battery can be checked in. You just have to remove the battery and take it as cabin luggage. There is a limit to the power of the battery – 100 Watt-hours (Wh) for lithium ion and 2 grams of lithium metal for lithium metal. These limits are no different to previous limits established for carrying batteries.

The bad news: If you can’t remove the battery from the bag, you can’t place the bag in the hold. The airline might have to do this even where you would like to take the bag in the cabin. Depending upon how busy the flight is for cabin baggage or the size of the aircraft baggage may have to be loaded into the aircraft hold. Having a bag with such a battery does not exempt the passenger from following ground and cabin crew instructions. If you are told to place the bag in the hold and you cannot remove the battery, the bag could be left behind.

So what has changed?

Nothing, the above is a re-statement of the existing dangerous goods regulations that all airlines follow. This became an issue simply because there are bags on the market that have non-removable Lithium Ion batteries, so some airlines have banned those bags.

What about electronic baggage tag equipped bags?

An electronic baggage tag equipped bag is an acceptable item, provided it complies with the above rules. Most electronic baggage tags use regular AA batteries, so they are not impacted by lithium ion regulations.

What about trackers?

Please check with your airline to see if the tracker you have has been approved for carriage. In general trackers which meet the above guidance are OK for placing in your baggage provided that the tracker is also fitted with functions that automatically shut the tracker down when inside the aircraft. The airline must approve anything that can transmit data to ensure that the transmission does not affect aircraft safety.

What about my other devices? My phone, laptop and camera?

These items should be carried as cabin luggage. Passengers can carry personal electronic devices in checked baggage, although it is recommended that all devices with installed batteries be carried in the cabin. Any devices in checked baggage must be completely turned off, not left in hibernation or sleep mode. The device must be packed in the bag so that it is protected against damage and should not be packed next to flammable items such as aerosols or perfumes.

Where can I get more information?

Please see the Dangerous Goods Regulations.

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