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Is It Safer to Check or Carry-on Lithium Batteries?

December 19, 2019

When you pack your bags for your next flight, do you know how and where to stow devices that contain lithium batteries? The rules on this have recently changed so it’s important to understand the new safety requirements before you arrive at the airport. 


Does your device use lithium batteries? 


Most portable electronic devices use lithium batteries because they can hold a charge longer than alkaline or nickel-cadmium batteries. These devices include cell phones, laptops, tablets, cameras, medical devices, e-cigarettes and vaping devices. Lithium batteries’ superior ability to hold a charge means they are also more flammable and can even self-ignite. Because of this danger, the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration released new regulations around traveling with lithium batteries in August 2019.  Here’s what you need to know: 


Turn off devices if checked


You are allowed to check cell phones, laptops, tablets, and cameras if they are completely turned off and safely packed to avoid accidental activation. For example, store your laptop in its case so that the power button cannot be turned on by any other items in your luggage that may shift during turbulence. 


Some lithium battery devices are carry-on only 


E-cigarettes, vaping devices, and spare lithium batteries are prohibited in checked baggage and must be placed in your carry-on. This is because the checked baggage area is not temperature and pressure controlled to the same extent as the cabin, resulting in conditions that could cause an e-cigarette, vaping device, or spare battery to ignite. 


Protect your batteries from short circuiting


If you do travel with spare lithium batteries (allowed in carry-on only), you will need to take precautions to prevent them from short circuiting. Cover the battery with tape and place in its own bag or place it in a protective package from the manufacturer. It’s also important to note that not all lithium batteries are sanctioned for air travel. Lithium-metal batteries are limited to 2 grams of lithium and lithium-ion batteries are limited to 100 watt-hours but you may be able to acquire approval for larger batteries in advance. (For most travelers with standard devices, these limits are not an issue.) 


Don’t travel with damaged or recalled batteries


It is advised not to travel with damaged or recalled lithium batteries in either your carry-on or checked baggage as they are more likely to overheat and catch fire. Unfortunately, it’s often impossible to tell if your battery is damaged or defective as you may not be able to even open the device to check without bringing it to the manufacturer. If you suspect your battery is damaged, repair or replace it before flying. It’s also a good idea to conduct an online search for any recalls for the devices you plan to travel with.   


For more information about the FAA’s regulations on air travel with lithium batteries, review this fact sheet


Related Posts: 


7 Cyber Security Tips for Business Travel 

How to Care for Your Laptop: 6 Bad Habits You Need to Break

The Right Way to Get Rid of Electronics


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