on 10/11/2022, by David Price, IDG NS (adapted by Jean Elyan), Networks, 825 words
After a nightmarish summer marked by the loss of a thousand pieces of luggage in airports, Lufthansa has decided to ban Apple AirTags on luggage in the holds of its planes. To justify this ban, the German airline claims compliance with international directives, but other companies have a different opinion.
German airline Lufthansa has banned AirTags on its flights after passengers used the device to locate lost luggage.On Twittera company representative said Lufthansa had banned activated AirTags in baggage because they were classified as dangerous and needed to be turned off.Press to give the reason, another representative said the decision was based on international guidelines. According to the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), baggage tracers are subject to dangerous goods regulations. In addition, due to their transmission function, trackers must be deactivated during the flight if they are in checked baggage and therefore cannot be used, the Lufthansa representative wrote in particular. Granted, AirTags can be removed from Find My relatively easily, but that defeats the purpose.
On Saturday however, in a more formal statement, Lufthansa told Airways magazine that it had not banned AirTags, and that no Lufthansa guidelines or regulations prohibited them. Which didn’t really clarify the situation. ICAO does have permanent regulations on these devices, but that has nothing to do with Lufthansa or any other carrier. However, the explanation sounds very semantic: AirTags are banned on flights, while the debate seems to be about who made that decision. As for the guidelines, no one seems too sure of the legitimacy of the claim. A large number of people on Twitter insisted that there is an exemption for devices containing lithium batteries below a certain size and that AirTags should benefit from it. The US National Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said there was no problem with the wireless trackers, and the German site Watson, which broke the story, received a similar response from representatives of the airports of Munich and Berlin.
Across the airline industry, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus regarding AirTags. As the Watson site points out, many airlines tolerate them. A representative from American Air told Macworld on Twitter, rather cautiously, that at this time there is no information that these devices are prohibited on our flights. EasyJet said: We do not have a policy prohibiting Apple AirTags on board. Several other airlines have been contacted and we are awaiting their replies. Only an expert in aviation regulations could enlighten us on the ins and outs of the classification of dangerous goods. But one wonders why it took until October 2022 for pre-existing regulations to be used to ban a device released in April 2021. The timing strongly suggests the topic is related to recent user behavior, rather than danger scientifically proven. Because, if anyone had had the slightest doubt about the danger of AirTags for air safety, they would have been banned from day one.
Apple’s AirTag trackers were launched in April 2021, but it wasn’t until recently that Lufthansa took a close look at them. (Credit: Apple)
Travel experts wonder if Lufthansa’s real motivation lies elsewhere, notably in the way passengers started using AirTags to track and locate lost luggage. Ben Schlappig, of the association One Mile At A Time, does not say he is surprised that Lufthansa is the first airline to add such a ban. Lufthansa is not the most popular with travellers, and the company has experienced a fair amount of lost luggage. AirTags allow travelers to know exactly where their luggage is, and you might think that some airlines don’t really appreciate this tracking. On Twitter, a ton of people are complaining about Lufthansa’s attitude because they know exactly where their luggage is, while the airline refuses to help them. In the end, it’s more of a public relations issue than legality. Lufthansa is completely free to prohibit certain aircraft on its flights, and from the customer’s point of view, it does not matter whether the ban comes from the airline or the international civil aviation organization. His only recourse is to fly with an airline that allows AirTags. Except that Lufthansa may have opened a breach, and that other airlines could follow suit.