Southwest Airlines is joining the movement to restrict smart bags with non-removable lithium batteries, following similar guidelines announced by fellow US carriers Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, as well as Air Canada, in early December.

Effective Jan. 15, 2018, Southwest will no longer accept smart bags if the lithium battery cannot be removed, according to new rules released by the Dallas-based carrier Dec. 15.

Smart bags are recently introduced luggage products that utilize integrated lithium batteries that power imbedded electronics, such as USB ports for recharging personal electronic devices (PEDs), self-weighing technology and even motors that power the bag’s wheels and allow it to keep up with its owner.

All four US airlines instituting the policy cite FAA guidelines, which restrict lithium ion batteries in airline cargo holds to avoid runaway fire incidents if the batteries ignite inflight.

Southwest will allow smart bags with a removable lithium battery to be transported into the cabin as carry-on baggage, and the battery may remain installed. “[But] if checking a smart bag is required at any time for any reason, the customer will need to remove the battery,” Southwest said. The customer would then have to keep the battery on their person, or in carry-on baggage, in the main passenger cabin.

“Customers traveling with smart bags should note that Southwest Airlines’ policy applies regardless of any manufacturer statement indicating the item is FAA or TSA ‘approved’,” the airline said, advising passengers to “[take] a few minutes to understand the bag’s battery placement and whether it can be removed … [it will] save you time and improve your travel experience at the airport.”

Additionally, each Southwest passenger is now permitted to carry up to a maximum of 15 PEDs and a maximum of 20 spare batteries. However, all loose and spare batteries and power banks (i.e., portable chargers) must be protected from short circuit and transported in carry-on baggage only, the airline said.

Southwest also announced it will allow passengers to carry one book of safety matches or one “common” lighter on their person, effective Jan. 15, 2019, while also emphasizing that lighters and matches are prohibited from carry-on bags, and should never be placed in checked baggage. The policy differs somewhat from present TSA prohibited item guidelines, which state that “disposable and Zippo lighters without fuel are allowed in checked bags.” The same lighters are also allowed in carry-on bags, according to TSA.

Other major US carriers, such as United Airlines, JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines and LCCs Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant, have yet to make a statement clarifying their positions on transporting smart bags.

Mark Nensel mark.nensel@informa.com