As we’ve become more technologically advanced, we’re using more and more gadgets that require batteries. Cell phones. Tablets. Laptop computers. Cameras. Handheld games. Digital scales. “Smart” luggage. Electric wheelchairs & scooters for mobility. E-cigarettes. Hearing aids. And the list goes on and on.
Meanwhile, these are some of the headlines you see if you Google BATTERY EXPLODED PLANE.
- Portable battery explodes on Ryanair flight
- Phone battery bursts into flames on flight
- How planes can be brought down by a single battery
Scary, huh? Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
As of May 31, 2021, there have been 316 air/airport incidents involving batteries carried as cargo or baggage (link is a PDF released by the FAA) that have been recorded since January, 2006. All incidents included smoke, fire, extreme heat or explosion, and most incidents involving spare batteries, battery chargers, laptops, tablets, cell phones and E-cigarettes.
As we wrote when we covered a battery/charger that exploded under unusual curcumstances at Chicago’s Midway Airport in late October 2019:
For the past several years, airlines, following FAA regulations, have required that lithium-ion batteries – those that power smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops and E-cigarettes, among other things – be stored in passengers’ carry on bags instead of checked luggage.
The reason for this is that they can catch fire if they’re damaged or if the battery terminals are somehow short-circuited. Although a fire in the cabin is an absolute emergency and oftentimes cause for an emergency landing, a fire in the cargo section, where no one and nothing will see/smell/detect it for a longer amount of time, could wind up being even more potentially deadly.
But then what about other kinds of batteries? Are they OK? And which of those can go into carry on versus checked bags?
Fortunately, the TSA has you covered (they may be a pain to deal with, but they’re really good when it comes to telling you want you can/can’t bring and where can/can’t go). Here’s what they say (info from this page of the TSA’s blog):
- Batteries Allowed in Carry-on Bags:
- Dry cell alkaline batteries; typical AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, button sized cells, etc.
- Dry cell rechargeable batteries such as Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (NiCad).
- Jump starters with lithium ion batteries.
- Lithium ion batteries (a.k.a.: rechargeable lithium, lithium polymer, LIPO, secondary lithium).
- Consumer-sized lithium ion batteries [no more than 8 grams of equivalent lithium content or 100 watt hours (wh) per battery]. This size covers AA, AAA, 9-volt, cell phone, PDA, camera, camcorder, Gameboy, and standard laptop computer batteries.
- Up to two larger lithium ion batteries (more than 8 grams, up to 25 grams of equivalent lithium content per battery) in their carry-on. This size covers larger extended-life laptop batteries. Most consumer lithium ion batteries are below this size. Lithium ion batteries that are between 101 – 160 wh are allowed in carry-on bags with airline approval.
- Lithium metal batteries (a.k.a.: non-rechargeable lithium, primary lithium). These batteries are often used with cameras and other small personal electronics. Consumer-sized batteries (up to 2 grams of lithium per battery) may be carried. This includes all the typical non-rechargeable batteries for personal film cameras and digital cameras (AA, AAA, 123, CR123A, CR1, CR2, CRV3, CR22, 2CR5, etc.) as well as the flat round lithium button cells.
- Batteries Allowed in Checked Bags:
- Except for lithium batteries, all the batteries allowed in carry-on baggage are also allowed in checked baggage; however, we recommend that you pack them in your carry-on bag whenever possible. In the cabin, airline flight crews can better monitor conditions, and have access to the batteries or device if a fire does occur.
- Prohibited Batteries:
- Car batteries, wet batteries, or spillable batteries are prohibited from both carry-on and checked baggage unless they are being used to power a scooter or wheelchair. If you need to pack a spare battery for a scooter or wheelchair, you must advise the aircraft operator so the battery can be properly packaged for air travel.
- Spare lithium batteries (both lithium metal and lithium ion/polymer) are prohibited in checked baggage.
- Battery Chargers:
- Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Polymer batteries are the most common rechargeable cell types found in Portable Chargers. Portable chargers are allowed in carry-on bags only.
- External battery chargers/Power banks/Uninstalled or spare lithium ion batteries must be packed in carry-on bags.
If you have any other questions about traveling with batteries, the TSA recommends contacting the FAA.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary