Lufthansa, a German airline, set off confusion recently after telling passengers that they may not use trackers like Apple AirTags in checked baggage due to international guidelines for private electronic devices. Apple rejected that interpretation on Tuesday, saying its trackers comply with all regulations.
It doesn’t appear that another airlines are requiring passengers to show off the trackers, which have change into popular as a option to find lost baggage. Lufthansa found itself in the midst of the difficulty when reports surfaced within the German news media that the devices were prohibited.
Though Lufthansa said it has no desire to ban the devices that it deemed secure, the airline seems to have stepped in a multitude based on the reading of obscure international guidelines and regulations, with no clear consensus on what’s and is just not allowed in Europe.
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. Quite a lot of other firms sell similar trackers, including Tile, which is popular with users of Android phones.
Lufthansa said on Sunday on Twitter that 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.
The airline has not issued a selected policy prohibiting baggage trackers. Moderately, it says it’s on the mercy of the principles. On Tuesday, the airline said it was “in close contact with the respective institutions to search out an answer as quickly as possible.” It also indicated its own examination saw no danger from their use.
“The Lufthansa Group has conducted its own risk assessment with the result that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked luggage don’t pose a security risk,” said Martin Leutke, a Lufthansa spokesman. “Now we have never issued a ban on devices like that. It’s on the authorities to adapt regulations that at once limit the usage of these devices for airline passengers in checked luggage.”
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 the international aviation body doesn’t have specific standards for cargo tracking devices, and its definition of private consumer electronic devices is targeted on larger devices, including phones, cameras and laptops. These are inclined to have larger lithium batteries.
Apple said AirTags use CR2032 coin cell batteries. These small lithium batteries 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 an announcement on Monday, the Transportation Security Administration confirmed Apple’s view that “tracking devices are allowed in each carry-on and checked bags.”
On Tuesday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency said that its regulation “doesn’t in itself ban or allow devices similar to the Apple AirTags.” However the E.A.S.A. looked as if it would kick the matter back to Lufthansa, saying, “It’s the responsibility of operators to ban the usage of devices which could adversely affect the flight safety or the aircraft’s systems.”
The specification on dangerous goods from the International Civil Aviation Organization says that “batteries contained in portable electronic devices must be carried as carry-on baggage,” but that if checked “the devices should be completely switched off (not in sleep or hibernation mode).” It was not immediately clear how the rules address the difficulty of Bluetooth Low Energy transmissions.
However the organization also said in an announcement that it is just not a regulator and “doesn’t play an oversight role” over the airlines. Moderately, its guidelines on what passengers may and will not do, and similar advice from the international trade group, trickle right down to the regulators and airlines, which set policy.