AirTags in Checked Baggage

Ben Schlappig, writing at his usually excellent One Mile at a Time, under the headline “Lufthansa Bans AirTags: Will Other Airlines Follow?”:

German media reports that Lufthansa is no longer allowing AirTags in checked bags.

Lufthansa argues that baggage trackers fall in the category of portable electronic devices, and are therefore subject to dangerous goods regulations issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This is specifically because of the transmission function. Lufthansa claims that the transmission function needs to be turned off during flight when in checked luggage, just as is required for cell phones, laptops, etc.

So you can leave an AirTag in a checked bag, it just can’t transmit, which of course renders it useless. As of now, no other major airline has issued a similar ban, and international aviation authorities also haven’t issued any sort of warnings about AirTags.

I don’t think this is what Lufthansa said at all, and the headline here is inaccurate. If you follow the link to the original German-language report at Watson, Safari’s translation to English reads:

The problem, however, is that AirTags are officially not allowed in airplane cases! This was reported by “Wirtschaftswoche” some time ago and referred to Lufthansa. At the same time, it became clear that a final regulation has not yet been made. [...] A spokeswoman for Lufthansa made it clear to Watson:

Luggage trackers belong to the category of portable electronic devices and are therefore subject to the dangerous goods regulations issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization for transport in aircraft. Accordingly, due to their transmission function, the trackers must be deactivated during the flight, similar to mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc. if they are in checked baggage.”

This reads to me, pretty clearly, as Lufthansa taking the by-the-book stance that AirTags are not expressly permitted, which is very different from saying AirTags are expressly banned. They’re neither officially allowed nor officially banned. People put all sorts of electronic devices in their checked baggage without removing the batteries.

Even if airlines wanted to ban AirTags, I’m not sure they could detect them in checked bags. If you’re already in the habit of putting AirTags in your checked bags — and it’s an obvious use case — I wouldn’t hesitate to keep doing it, even when flying Lufthansa. That said, Lufthansa’s official Twitter account is tweeting conflicting statements about whether AirTags are banned or not. I wouldn’t take these tweets as anything other than German officiousness. They’re just tweets — ignore them. (Probably good advice for almost every tweet in existence.)

Update 13 October: Lufthansa, on Twitter:

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. With that these devices are allowed on Lufthansa flights.

So, like I thought, never mind.

Monday, 10 October 2022