Technology

Australian airlines to continue to allow luggage trackers after Lufthansa bans devices

Australia’s domestic airlines will continue to allow tracking devices to be used in luggage despite an overseas carrier banning the lithium-charged tags.

German airline Lufthansa has said it would now classify luggage trackers, such as Apple AirTags, as similar to laptops and phones and will not allow them to be checked in with luggage.

The airline is now advising passengers to remove the lithium batteries from any trackers before they check in, or to turn them off so their transmission function does not interfere with the aircraft.

But Australian airlines have said they currently have no plans to follow Lufthansa’s example.

A spokesperson for Qantas said the airline “welcomed” their customers using the trackers and did not have plans to change the rules around their use.

“We don’t have any concerns about them at the moment,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Virgin Australia also confirmed it had no restrictions around the use of tracking devices, as did a spokesperson for Singapore Airlines.

Air New Zealand was contacted for comment but did not respond by publication.

Lithium batteries in laptops and phones pose a safety risk as they can catch fire. Though these fires are rare, they produce an intense heat and if there are other batteries nearby they may also catch alight in a process known as “thermal runaway”.

When stored as carry-on luggage there is more potential for fire to be noticed and acted upon quickly.

Authorities in the US have said they did not consider the trackers to be a safety risk as they relied on Bluetooth technology that did not interfere with airplane communication systems.

Trackers such as the Apple AirTag are used by passengers to track their luggage in the event it is lost or misdirected.

Sometimes the information it collected had been used as evidence to argue against claims by airlines about lost luggage.

In August, a 19-year-old airline subcontractor was arrested for stealing luggage from a Florida airport after an AirTag in a suitcase allowed police to track the item to a house three hours outside Tallahasse.

The introduction of Lufthansa’s policy meant trackers could be confiscated at airports by officials who would be left to enforce it.

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