Lithium-ion batteries have a pretty awful reputation when it comes to plane travel. They’re the reason why hoverboards began spontaneously exploding and are now no longer allowed on flights. They’re also the culprit for the briefly released Samsung Galaxy Note7, which had similar instability issues and also banned from flights. Part of the technology that makes lithium-ion batteries so powerful also leads to them overheating and as a posing a serious fire hazard. In result, new policies regarding the proper procedure for lithium-ion batteries on flights are being created. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have recently announced an updated protocol for passengers traveling with lithium-ion batteries, including items like smart bags.
What are ‘smart bags’?
Smart bags are typical pieces of luggage, but also feature integrated technology. There are a few different models on the market, but most allow travelers to weigh their luggage and even lock it through an app on their phone. Some can track your luggage using GPS. And others can even be used as a mobile charging station for phones and laptops. This autonomous smart bag is hands-free and will automatically follow the owner as they walk! As amazing and innovative as these new smart bags are, they unfortunately use lithium-ion batteries to operate. Due to the unpredictability of lithium-ion batteries, a debate has taken hold. Where is the safest place for smart bags on an aircraft? Should these batteries be stored in the cargo hold, where the Department of Homeland Security recently announced large electronics should be placed? Or, should they be in the cabin, where if an error occurs, it could be addressed immediately? Now some airlines are taking the lead and implementing policies that regulate lithium-ion batteries on air crafts.
Airlines restrictions on lithium-ion batteries and smart bags
Delta, American, and Alaska are the three airlines leading the charge on these restrictions. Both recently announced their decision to ban smart bags with non-removable lithium-ion batteries from flights. The removed batteries should then be brought in the passenger’s carry-on, similar to how passengers should bring extra batteries. If the battery is removable, the smart bag will be allowed on the flight. American added that in their policy, non-removable batteries will be allowed, but only if the battery can be turned off. If the traveler cannot turn off or remove the battery, the bag will be refused. These restrictions will go into place starting January 15, 2018.
It should also be noted that many smart bag companies claim their products comply with TSA and FAA procedures. This may be true, but they are not endorsed by the airlines.
If you have traveled frequently in the last month, you may have noticed a major change. Most airlines are no longer providing free TSA Pre-check status like they have in the past. Those receiving TSA Pre-Check for free will now be offered it less and less. The Transportation Security Administration has begun limiting access to its expedited physical screening lanes. Only those who have paid for and enrolled in a Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler programs—TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI will be offered on a consistent basis. My thinking is that every once in a while they want to make sure you are still going by the rules and have you go through regular security lines for a full review.
Applying for TSA Pre-Check
Though an application and approval process is required to receive TSA Pre-Check status, it is very easy. Interested fliers apply online, submit to a background check, and then visit one of more than 380 enrollment sites across the country. This in-person appointment with a TSA agents can be scheduled online as well. I enrolled in Global Entry early in 2016 and loved how it expedited my re-entry to US. If you travel 3-4 trips a year, it is well worth the $85 for five years ($17 a year) or Global Entry is $100 ($20 a year). Learn more about the application process in our ultimate TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry guide.
TSA Pre Check alternative payment methods
Some airlines are offering payment by using your miles. United Airlines and Alaska Airlines require using 10,000 miles, while Southwest needs 9,000 rapid rewards points. Delta Air Lines is using miles, but instead offering Diamond and Platinum Medallion Members the ability to select Global Entry application vouchers through Choice Benefits. This loyalty program feature is only available to Delta elite Members. JetBlue is also offering TSA Pre Check for free to elites, similar to Delta’s system.
If you love not having to remove shoes, leaving laptop in your bag, along with your Ziploc bag of liquids don’t delay because the necessary face-to-face appointments are filling up fast. In other words—don’t wait until right before your next trip to apply as you will be sadly disappointed.
Any questions about TSA PreCheck eligibility contact TSA at (866) 289-9673 or submit questions to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook.com/AskTSA.
In the midst of volcanoes and strikes and demonstrations, you might have missed some interesting developments in the world of frequent flier news this week.
United Airlines says “keep your money..” – well, at least some of it. The airline announced this week that its elite members in its Mileage Plus program will no longer have to suffer the indignity of paying a co-pay fee when using miles to upgrade flights in the continental U.S., Alaska or Canada.
Frontier Airlines announced that it will end its mileage program partnership with AirTran. Due in no small part to the union of Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines under the Frontier name last month, the Frontier-AirTran partnership is scheduled to end on July 16, 2010.
Delta Airlines announced that beginning fall 2010 elite members of Delta’s SkyMiles program will enjoy upgrade benefits on Alaska Airlines flights as part of the Delta/Alaska partnership extension.
For more information on each of these revelations, contact your Christopherson Travel Advisor.
Continental Airlines’ announcement last week that it would begin offering wireless internet (Wi-Fi) access aboard its aircraft beginning the second quarter of 2010 brought to close an exciting year of innovative in-flight communication advances.
Virgin America, the upstart discount carrier based in San Francisco, CA was the first U.S. carrier to offer fleet wide Wi-Fi access in May of 2009. American, Delta, United and US Airways followed shortly thereafter with staggered deployments of Wi-Fi across their respective fleets meaning in-flight Wi-Fi access will be a reality with all the legacy carriers in 2010.
As for the discount carriers, Virgin America is definitely leading the charge with Air Tran recently announcing the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi across its fleet. Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue have begun testing Wi-Fi on certain aircraft while Midwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines are still considering the option of offering this service to their customers.
As with almost any other service now offered on board, in-flight Wi-Fi will come at a cost. To find out which airlines offer Wi-Fi access and how much they charge based on your destination, call Christopherson/Andavo Travel and our trusted travel advisors will be glad to answer your questions.