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FAA confirms AirTags are allowed in checked bags as Lufthansa backs off purported ban

Oct. 13, 2022
4 min read
Photo of an Apple AirTag against a black background
FAA confirms AirTags are allowed in checked bags as Lufthansa backs off purported ban
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Aviation regulators in the U.S. have spoken: Apple AirTags in checked luggage are not a safety hazard.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said that AirTags specifically are allowed in checked luggage and are not considered to pose a danger.

“Luggage tracking devices powered by lithium metal cells that have 0.3 grams or less of lithium can be used on checked baggage," the FAA said. "Apple AirTags meet this threshold; other luggage tracking devices may not.”

AirTags contain 0.1 grams of lithium, under the FAA's limit.

The FAA spoke up after nearly a week of confusion spurred by Lufthansa, which issued conflicting statements about a supposed ban of the popular tracking devices on its flights.

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The German flag carrier on Wednesday finally clarified with a definitive statement: AirTags are allowed in checked baggage on its flights.

"The German Aviation Authorities (Luftfahrtbundesamt) confirmed today, that they share our risk assessment, that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked luggage do not pose a safety risk," the company said in a statement. "With that, these devices are allowed on Lufthansa flights."

At issue were the batteries that power the AirTags, which communicate with other Apple devices over low-powered Bluetooth. AirTags use CR2032 "button cell" batteries, which are about the size of a coin and contain a minuscule amount of lithium metal. These batteries are best known for powering wristwatches and key fobs.

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Some of the confusion stemmed from the web of international bodies and regulators that oversee air carriers.

In its initial statements, Lufthansa referred to regulations by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations. But ICAO doesn't enforce regulations — instead, it issues guidelines that are enforced by local regulators.

More: Is Lufthansa really banning Apple AirTags? The airline says 'no'

Lufthansa is in part regulated by German authorities, Luftfahrtbundesamt, and as an airline of the European Union, by the European Aviation Safety Agency. These agencies have analogous roles to the FAA.

On Tuesday, EASA said that it hadn't banned AirTags, and that any ban on Lufthansa's flights would have been the airline's decision.

"The regulation does not in itself ban or allow devices such as the Apple AirTags," EASA said in a statement that referred to the agency's portable electronic device regulations. "It is the responsibility of operators to prohibit the use of devices which could adversely affect the flight safety or the aircraft's systems."

The use of trackers like AirTags has proliferated in recent months as airline passengers faced a summer travel season flush with customer service issues — including lost luggage. It had been speculated by some on social media that Lufthansa made its move as a way to cover up embarrassing customer service lapses, versus something rooted in any real regulation or spurred by any incidents.

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There are no known instances of AirTags catching fire on an aircraft — especially in the cargo hold, where inflight fires are more difficult to extinguish.

Likewise, no other major airlines had followed Lufthansa's lead with a ban on AirTags. Now, with a top aviation regulator clearly stating that the devices do not pose a significant hazard — and Lufthansa facing a public relations issue for its flip-flopping move — it seems unlikely any other airlines will.

Related reading: How to use Apple AirTags to track your luggage

David Slotnick and Ben Mutzabaugh contributed reporting.

Featured image by MELINA MARA/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023