The German airline Lufthansa reversed itself on Wednesday, saying that Apple AirTags and other Bluetooth tracking devices would once more be allowed in checked baggage.
“The German Aviation Authorities (Luftfahrt-Bundesamt) confirmed today, that they share our risk assessment that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked luggage don’t pose a security risk,” the airline said. “With that these devices are allowed on Lufthansa flights.”
The airline had set off a storm of confusion and criticism after telling passengers that they might must deactivate the trackers in baggage stowed in cargo holds due to international guidelines for private electronic devices.
Apple had rejected that interpretation on Tuesday, saying its trackers comply with all airline safety regulations.
In the USA, that was confirmed by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Safety Administration. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said that its regulation did “not in itself ban or allow” the trackers, but that operators had the best to find out which devices were protected to make use of in flight.
It appears Lufthansa sought advice from German aviation authorities. Martin Leutke, a spokesman for the airline, said Wednesday that he had no further comment in regards to the company’s statement, first released on Twitter.
Lufthansa found its policy under fire when reports surfaced within the German news media that it had prohibited the devices, amid speculation that the airline had been embarrassed by reports of passengers using the devices to seek out baggage it had lost.
Lufthansa had confirmed Sunday on Twitter that it believed the trackers should be deactivated in checked baggage on its flights, citing the International Civil Aviation Organization’s guidelines for dangerous goods in addition to the trackers’ “transmission function.” Shutting off the trackers renders them useless.
On Tuesday, it tried to make clear its position, with Mr. Leutke saying the airline had not banned the devices and believed they were protected but that “it’s on the authorities to adapt regulations, that immediately limit the usage of these devices for airline passengers in checked luggage.”
Regulators in the USA have said the trackers, which use Bluetooth technology and don’t interfere with the airplanes’ communications equipment, are permitted in carry-on or checked baggage. A wide range of other firms sell similar trackers, including Tile, which is popular with users of Android phones.
In its statement, Apple said that AirTags are “compliant with international airline travel safety regulations for carry-on and checked baggage.”
The devices use Bluetooth Low Energy, the identical technology commonly utilized by wireless headphones, that are permitted on flights. They’re tracked by sharing their last location via a secure signal to nearby Apple devices.
Apple said I.C.A.O. doesn’t have specific standards for cargo tracking devices, and its definition of non-public consumer electronic devices is concentrated on larger devices, including phones, cameras and laptops. These are likely to have larger lithium batteries.
The aviation organization itself said Tuesday that it shouldn’t be a regulator and “doesn’t play an oversight role” over the airlines. Quite, its guidelines on what passengers may and will not do, and similar advice from the international trade group, trickle all the way down to the regulators and airlines, which set policy.
Apple said AirTags use CR2032 coin cell batteries, that are commonly utilized in watches and key fobs. Apple said those batteries have been approved for all baggage by the Federal Aviation Administration, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the International Air Transport Association, an airlines trade group.
An F.A.A. advisory from 2017 allows devices to make use of low-powered wireless communication like Bluetooth on board planes in the USA. In a press release on Monday, the Transportation Security Administration confirmed Apple’s view that “tracking devices are allowed in each carry-on and checked bags.”