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No, Lufthansa Isn’t Banning AirTags from Luggage

One of the more noteworthy uses of AirTags has been to toss them into checked luggage, which has helped many flyers track down lost bags. So German airline Lufthansa set off a firestorm recently when its Twitter account claimed that AirTags are forbidden from checked baggage for safety reasons.

After objections from Apple, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and after consulting with German authorities, the New York Times reports that Lufthansa has now clarified that AirTags are permissible in checked baggage.

It appears to have been a simple case of a social media manager at Lufthansa being confused about the regulations, which originate with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that sets the standards enforced by national air authorities. The ICAO banned rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (like those in your iPhone or MacBook) from being stored as cargo in passenger flights in 2016, citing fire risks. But that guideline does not touch on the small non-rechargeable lithium CR2032 batteries used in AirTags. Lufthansa itself never had a specific rule prohibiting them.

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Comments About No, Lufthansa Isn’t Banning AirTags from Luggage

Notable Replies

  1. Nit pick: The CR2032 battery used by AirTags is a 3V lithium cell, not alkaline.

    According to this page, the first letter of a coin cell type indicates its chemistry. (The “R” means “round”, with the numbers indicating diameter and thickness. The most common type is “C” (e.g. CR2032), which uses Lithium Manganese Dioxide (LiMn02). Less commonly, you may find “B” (e.g. BR2032), which is Lithium/Carbon Monofluoride Li-(CF)x.

    Type “B” cells have a much longer shelf life and are therefore often used for devices like clocks, which draw very small amounts of current for a very long time.

    Both type “C” and type “B” are disposable batteries and (as far as I know) can not be recharged, so they shouldn’t trigger any rechargeable battery laws. And they definitely do not use the Li-ion chemistry used in phone/tablet/laptop batteries.

    (There are other chemistries for the “R2032” size, which are rechargeable, but they are far less common).

  2. Thanks, I’ve fixed that now, and I dove down a rabbit hole of battery chemistry. Apparently, the big difference between alkaline and lithium is that the voltage output from alkaline batteries drops over time and lithium stays constant even as the battery is drained.

  3. Yep. Alkaline (and their predecessor, carbon-zinc, sometimes sold as “long life” or “heavy duty”) batteries have a nominal voltage of 1.5v per cell. It’s slightly higher when new, and it drops off as the cells age. (A so-called “9v” battery actually has 6 cells packed inside the enclosure).

    Most lithium batteries have a nominal voltage of 3v per cell (with some being 3.6v), and it tends to remain steady until they die, and then suddenly drop to near-zero.

    One interesting variant is the Lithium iron disulfide (LiFeS2) battery, which has an open-circuit voltage of 1.8v, but drops to levels compatible with alkaline batteries when used in-circuit. These are what you find in lithium AA cells. They are preferred for cameras since they can handle sudden bursts of high current, like you get from an old style (non-LED) flash. See also AA battery - Wikipedia

  4. Thank you both. This information was great and I learned a lot!

  5. I’ve got some bluetooth temperature/humidity sensors that use R2032 batteries. I find that the CRs last about 6 months with bluetooth polling (from a Mac) done hourly. Would BRs be appropriate for these devices and offer a longer life? I note that the BRs are much more expensive and harder to find than the CRs.

  6. One minor nitpick on a great article!

    The International Civil Aviation Organization is “ICAO” not “ICAC” – I’ve worked with them for several decades, and I got a minor case of cognitive whiplash! :innocent:

    Thanks for all of your great articles!

  7. Good question. BRs have a slightly lower nominal voltage, but a higher cut-off voltage. They have a longer shelf-life, but I don’t know how this will translate to lifespan for a device that is active for an extended period of time (as is the case for your sensors).

    it might be interesting to give it a try, but as you say, BRs are more expensive.

    See also BR2032 Vs CR2032 - EV Cast

  8. Thank for the link. I learned a lot. I guess I’ll stick with the CRs for now.

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