American was the first US carrier to announce a new policy Friday to require passengers checking smart luggage to remove the lithium ion batteries.
American Airlines was the first to announce new policies Friday and other major airlines are expected to follow.
Starting on January 15, both Alaska Airlines and Delta will ban smart bags containing non-removable lithium-ion batteries from being checked or brought on the plane as a carry-on. The airlines fear the power banks will overheat and catch fire in the cargo hold.
Numerous bags rely on lithium-ion batteries, which can overheat and pose a fire hazard, Delta said.
Smart bags are the latest innovation in luggage, with features including Global Positioning System tracking, electronic locks, and the ability to charge devices such as laptops and phones. Most of the bans will allow fliers to check the bags if the battery can be removed and carried by the passenger in the cabin. Some even have motors allowing them to be used as sit-on transportation devices, or can enable the bag to follow its owner.
But Bluesmart, which says more than 65,000 of its suitcases are being used around the world, said its batteries can not be removed but that its products meet all safety regulations and requirements.
Lithium-ion batteries are well known for being volatile; their tendency to explode is heavily documented, particularly in cases involving consumer devices with less than optimal construction.
Tim Ryan, chief marketing officer at Chicago-based smart bag-maker Modobag, said its batteries are removable, though the company may consider making batteries easier to remove in an upcoming line of smart bags that are created to be checked. If the bag will be traveling in the cabin, the battery can remain installed as long as it is powered off.
"Many smart bag manufacturers advertise their products as being approved by the FAA or TSA [Transportation Security Administration], which may give customers the false impression that all smart bags are accepted for transport", Delta said. "While most airlines understand and approve of smart luggage, others still might 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 that it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel", said a statement from Bluesmart.
It said it would be holding meetings with airlines to try and ensure its products are exempt from any restrictions.