Understanding the Safe Use of Lithium Batteries During Air Travel

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As air travel has become an integral part of our lives, understanding the regulations and safety concerns related to lithium batteries is crucial. While these compact energy sources power our devices, they can pose significant dangers when aboard an airplane. Renowned aviation authorities, such as those in the USA, have enforced strict regulations due to the potential for heat generation, ignition, and uncontrollable fires associated with lithium batteries. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the safety concerns and guidelines surrounding lithium batteries during air travel.

Which Batteries Are Prohibited on Planes? Lithium polymer and lithium metal batteries, including spare batteries, are strictly prohibited from being carried on airplanes, whether in your carry-on baggage or checked luggage. Recent incidents of lithium batteries catching fire have led to these bans. Incidents involving gadgets like hoverboards and earphones engulfed in flames have raised significant safety concerns, culminating in the banning of such devices on flights. A well-known example is the prohibition of Samsung Note 7 smartphones in the USA due to their fire and explosion risks. If batteries are allowed onboard, they must be isolated from other flammable materials.

Understanding Spillable Batteries: Spillable batteries, such as car batteries or wet batteries, are generally not permitted on flights. However, exceptions can be made for medical equipment or mobility devices like wheelchairs or scooters. In such cases, it is vital to inform the airline staff to ensure proper packing and safety measures are in place.

Guidelines for Traveling with Lithium Batteries: For the safety of all passengers, there are specific limitations and guidelines when traveling with devices powered by lithium batteries:

  1. Limit the Number of Devices: Passengers are encouraged to minimize the number of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) using lithium batteries. These include devices like cameras, mobile phones, laptops, e-readers, and medical equipment like portable oxygen generators. It is advisable to carry fewer than fifteen devices in either carry-on or checked baggage.
  2. Battery Content and Ratings: Installed batteries in PEDs must meet certain criteria. For lithium metal or lithium alloy batteries, the lithium content should not exceed two grams. For lithium-ion batteries, the watt-hour rating must be below 100 Wh. If your battery lacks a watt-hour rating, it can be calculated by multiplying the volts and ampere-hours.
  3. Protection From Damage: Precautions should be taken to prevent damage and reduce the risk of unintentional fires for batteries allowed on planes and carried in checked luggage.
  4. Complete Device Shutdown: Devices powered by lithium batteries must be turned off completely, not merely in sleep mode or hibernation, for the duration of the flight.

How to Travel with Lithium Batteries:

  1. Smart Luggage: Some modern suitcases are equipped with built-in charging systems powered by lithium batteries. Nevertheless, many airlines prohibit these suitcases onboard. Therefore, it’s essential to inspect your luggage for built-in lithium batteries and remove them before your flight.
  2. Lithium Spare Batteries: When traveling with spare lithium batteries, they should be carried in your carry-on baggage. Each battery should be individually protected to prevent short circuits. It is advisable to keep them in their original packaging and tape over the exposed terminals.
  3. Electronic Cigarettes and Vape Pens: Although some airlines still consider vape pens as potential risks, it is crucial to check with your specific airline for their regulations. Typically, electronic cigarettes with lithium batteries are permitted in carry-on luggage.
  4. Power Banks and External Chargers: Power banks and external chargers featuring built-in lithium-ion batteries should be transported with the same precautions as spare lithium batteries.
  5. Shipping Lithium Batteries: When shipping devices with lithium batteries, such as laptops and phones, ensure compliance with aviation authority guidelines. If you are uncertain about proper packaging, contact your business representative for assistance.

Conclusion: Traveling with devices that contain lithium batteries presents important safety considerations when flying. Due to the risk of fire, lithium batteries are generally prohibited. However, there are specific guidelines for traveling with them when necessary. Adhering to these regulations is essential for minimizing the risk of fire incidents. Despite the presence of extinguisher systems on planes, lithium-ion battery fires remain challenging to control. Therefore, it’s vital to handle devices with lithium batteries cautiously during air travel.

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