From January 15, 2018, American Airlines' passengers traveling with battery-powered luggage must be able to remove the battery in case the bag has to be checked. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag will not be allowed. The carrier announced its new policy on December 1, 2017, as part of its “safety management and risk mitigation” program. Two other airlines – Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines – also put limits on smart bags that lack removable batteries out of safety concerns. 

According to the airlines, smart bags will be allowed as carry-on baggage, if they meet carry-on size limits and if it is possible to remove the battery from the bag if needed. If the bag flies as a checked bag, the battery must be removed and the battery must be carried in the cabin.

Smart bags contain lithium battery power banks, which allow powering built-in features like GPS and Bluetooth locators, weight scales that prevent over-packing, USB ports to charge personal devices and motors to propel the bag. These batteries “pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft,” American Airlines said in an official statement.

“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, ” Delta Air Lines said in an official statement.  “To date, neither the TSA nor FAA have endorsed a smart bag as approved.”

Alaska Airlines claimed that while these restrictions may pose a challenge to some passengers, “there have been no incidents to date with smart bags on airplanes and we want to keep it that way.”

Earlier, the International Civil Aviation Organization determined that “baggage equipped with a lithium battery” should have restrictions limiting their allowance in an airplane cargo hold.

In 2015, Delta Air Lines banned hoverboards and other battery-powered self-balancing personal transportation devices over similar concerns. In 2016, the US Department of Transportation banned Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 smartphone from flights after defective batteries caused some phones to burst into flames, prompting a recall.