Despite the fact Although Apple advertised the gadgets specifically as devices for tracking airline passengers' luggage, the use of these small disc-shaped devices for this purpose has been questioned by several airlines. They argued, not without reason, that Airtag did not comply with ICAO regulations governing the transport of lithium batteries in the luggage compartment of an aircraft.
Lithium batteries power almost all of our modern technology, including mobile phones, tablets and laptops, but the propensity of these batteries to spontaneously overheat and ignite — this is a risk that keeps the entire aviation industry on its toes.
The increase in cases of spontaneous combustion of batteries in the passenger compartment is a concern, but usually flight attendants armed with special fire bags and fire extinguishers are dealt with quickly and efficiently.
On the other hand, a fire in the luggage compartment of an aircraft cannot be extinguished quickly, and even the smallest of them poses a real threat to the safety of the aircraft.
As a result, ICAO developed the so-called “dangerous goods regulations” that prohibit the transport of certain items in the luggage compartment of the aircraft. Lithium batteries are on the list.
Smaller lithium batteries can be carried in the hold in some cases, but so far ICAO has been careful to stipulate that all Lithium batteries weighing no more than 2 grams are allowed in checked baggage only when switched off.
Airtag devices use tiny CR2032 lithium batteries weighing only 0.109 grams, but since they are always in working order ICAO rules did not provide for exceptions for them.
The issue surfaced after German carrier Lufthansa suggested that Airtag should not be used as a baggage tracking tool, causing a huge international outcry that ended with the airline seeking advice from the German aviation authorities.
According to them According to the Airtag, it does not pose a security risk and can be used as a baggage tracking tool. Lufthansa had to lift its ban last October.
At that point, the issue seemed resolved until Air New Zealand also announced that, at least technically, the Apple Airtag could not be placed in the hold of an aircraft due to ICAO guidelines.
And finally, ICAO finally decided this issue — The Board of the Agency has approved a new amendment regarding international regulations for the transport of active small electronic devices powered by lithium batteries in checked baggage.
The amendment reads: “In accordance with the revised requirement, devices powered by small lithium batteries, in checked baggage may remain switched on during flight provided that the lithium content of their lithium metal battery is less than 0.3 grams or if the lithium ion battery power is less than 2.7 Wh.
This means that Apple Airtags can officially be used as a checked baggage tracking tool.
However, the ICAO warns: “For devices with lithium batteries that exceed the above parameters, the obligation remains to disable them in the checked baggage luggage".