December 5, 2017 / 1:22 PM / 11 days ago

'Smart bags' may not fly if battery cannot be removed

GENEVA (Reuters) - “Smart suitcases” may be able to charge mobile phones or be easily found if misplaced, but unless their battery can be removed they risk being sent packing by the world’s airlines.

Global airlines body IATA said it could issue industry-wide standards on the new luggage soon, after some U.S. airlines issued their own restrictions on smart bags, whose manufacturers include companies such as BlueSmart, Raden or Away.

These contain GPS tracking and can charge devices, weigh themselves or be locked remotely using mobile phones, but they are powered by lithium ion batteries, which the aviation industry regards as a fire risk, especially in the cargo hold.

“We expect guidance to be issued potentially this week,” Nick Careen, IATA senior vice president of airport, passenger, cargo and security, told a media briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, when asked about restrictions placed by some airlines.

U.S. based carriers American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta (DAL.N) and Alaska Airlines (ALK.N) all said last week that as of Jan. 15, 2018, they would require the battery to be removed before allowing the bags on board.

Careen gave no details of any potential industry-wide standards, but said he expected others could quickly follow the example of the U.S. carriers.

Away and Raden say on their websites that batteries in their bags can be easily removed.

    Bluesmart, which says more than 65,000 of its suitcases are being used around the world, said its batteries cannot be removed but that its products meet all safety regulations and requirements.

    It said it would be holding meetings with airlines to try and ensure its products are exempt from any restrictions.

    Concerns over the risk of a lithium ion battery fire were highlighted during the electronics ban temporarily imposed earlier this year on some flights to the United States.

    Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Alexander Smith and Louise Heavens

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