German flag carrier Lufthansa said on Wednesday evening that it had managed to get clearance from Germany’s civil aviation regulator for Apple AirTags to be used as luggage trackers in checked luggage.
The announcement came after days of confusion where even Lufthansa seemed unsure over whether the popular gadget could be used as a luggage tracker for baggage placed in the hold of an aircraft.
Lufthansa had originally pointed to guidelines from the UN’s civil aviation body that suggested that AirTags could only be placed in hold luggage when switched off – rendering them useless as a luggage tracker.
“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 (ICAO) for transport in aircraft,” a spokesperson had told a respected German publication last month.
“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,” a statement from the airline continued.
On the face of it, Lufthansa was banning AirTags when used as a luggage tracker.
But when the airline was approached for clarification, not even Lufthansa could seem to agree whether AirTags were banned or not. A spokesperson clarified that its policy on AirTags had never changed, while an airline rep on its Twitter channel told a customer that Lufthansa was banning AirTags.
Behind the scenes, it has emerged that Lufthansa was trying to get to the bottom of whether AirTags could be used as luggage trackers or not and was pushing regulators for an opinion.
The problem is that ICAO’s dangerous good regulations stipulate that all lithium battery-powered devices with a lithium content not exceeding 2g are only permitted in checked luggage when switched off.
While AirTags use tiny CR2032 lithium coin batteries with just 0.109g, the ICAO rules seemingly don’t make an exemption.
Airlines around the world have turned a blind eye to this apparent conflict but Lufthansa was the first known carrier to make a public statement on the issue, although internally the airline says it believed all along that AirTags didn’t pose a fire risk when used as a luggage tracker.
Finally, we have an answer…
“The German Aviation Authorities (Luftfahrtbundesamt) confirmed today (Wednesday), 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 airline said in a tweet.
“With that these devices are allowed on Lufthansa flights,” the tweet continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.