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Smart suitcases may not fly, airlines warn

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“SMART suitcases”, which can charge mobile phones, weigh themselves and be GPS tracked, seem like the holy grail of luggage. But you should think twice before dropping several hundred dollars on the travel companion because airlines may not allow them on board.

Unless their battery can be removed, smart suitcases risk being sent packing by the world’s airlines.

Global airlines body, The International Air Transport Association (IATA), said it could issue industry-wide standards on the new luggage soon, after some US airlines issued their own restrictions on smart bags, whose manufacturers include companies such as BlueSmart, Raden or Away.

The suitcases 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,” IATA senior vice president of airport, passenger, cargo and security Nick Careen told a media briefing in Geneva last week, when asked about restrictions placed by some airlines.

US-based carriers American Airlines, Delta and Alaska Airlines all said last week that as of January 15, 2018 they would require the battery to be removed before allowing the bags on board.

Mr Careen gave no details of any potential industry-wide standards, but said he expected others could quickly follow the example of the US carriers. Away and Raden say on their websites that batteries in their bags can be easily removed. It is unclear on BlueSmart’s website whether batteries are removable but it does state that all of its technology is “compliant with international regulations”.

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 US.

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