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NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – A growing number of airlines are banning so-called “smart bags,” luggage with built-in tracking devices or phone chargers.

They say there are concerns that the lithium-ion batteries used in the bags could cause a fire.

United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are the latest to announce that they will ban smart bags with non-removable batteries. The ban goes into effect January 15th. Four other airlines announced similar restrictions earlier this month.

“We know that there are some smart bags out there that would no longer be permitted to fly on American Airlines,” said airline spokesman Ross Feinstein.

American Air, the world’s largest carrier, was the first to ban the bags.

“If the bag has to be checked you must remove that battery and bring it into the cabin of the aircraft with you. If the bag has to be checked and the battery is not removable we’re not going to be able to accept that bag,” said Feinstein.

Earlier this year, the FAA urged international regulators to ban large electronics with lithium-ion batteries from checked bags. New testing revealed the potential for a catastrophic fire so intense the plane’s extinguishers wouldn’t put it out.

Smart bags use the batteries to power onboard GPS, sync with an app, weigh and lock themselves, and serve as cell phone chargers.

Bags with the batteries removed will be allowed on board but the expensive features, like the ability to track it, won’t work.

In a statement BlueSmart, a leading maker of smart bags, said in part:

“We did our due diligence to make sure that we complied with all international regulations defined by the DOT and FAA. It is a step back not only for travel technology but it also presents an obstacle to improving the way we all travel.”

One leading manufacturer said at least 65,000 of its smart bags could be grounded.


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