If you travel with your phone, camera or laptop (like most of us) then you must be very familiar with lithium-ion batteries. They’re found in hearing aids, cell phones, standard laptop batteries, etc. If handled correctly, they can power your device for hours. If handled improperly, these mini power plants have the ability to burst into flames and even explode! Sometimes we forget just how powerful our devices are. Their ability to malfunction is very real, and when it comes to air travel, they can be especially dangerous.

Although the recent news of Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 has taken center stage, there have been similar incidents on airplanes. Back in March, a college student’s iPhone 6 spontaneously combusted on a flight en route to Hawaii. In June, a passenger’s phone was crushed in a seat’s reclining mechanism and because of the lithium-ion battery the phone began to smolder.

Why Is This Happening?

The sudden pyrotechnics are caused by a chemical process known as thermal runaway. If the circuitry or software of a battery is damaged or defective, it can get very hot very quickly and when this happens, it either erupts into flames or explodes. What’s even more troubling is that these flames burn at extreme temperatures (up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit) and attempting to extinguish them with water will only make it worse. And really, none of that is good in the middle of a flight.


How Does This Affect Me?

Understandably, Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 has sent shock waves throughout the commercial aviation industry. The US Federal Aviation Association has now prohibited passengers from bringing powered Samsung Galaxy Note 7s on the plane (you can take it on with you as long as it’s turned off). Given how prevalent these batteries are and that airlines aren’t going to outlaw portable electronics any time soon, the ban isn’t exactly reassuring.


What Rules Are in Place?

1. Carrying lithium batteries in your checked luggage (bag stored under the plane) is ONLY allowed when the batteries are secured in their devices.

2. Spare or loose lithium batteries are never allowed in checked baggage.

3. For you vapers out there, E-cigarettes and vaporizers are never allowed in luggage that’s being checked. They HAVE to be carried on board with you (we’re sure you’ll manage!).

4. As long as it’s for personal use, there is no restriction on the number of spare lithium batteries allowed in your carry-on luggage.


Transporting Spare Lithium Batteries in Your Carry-On?

1. Counterfeit batteries are more likely to cause a fire, so please don’t be cheap – aim to buy your batteries from legitimate retailers. One way to ensure your battery is legit is to check the packaging or the battery itself for the mark of independent testing such as the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

2. Pack your batteries carefully to avoid crushing or puncturing. This will ensure your battery doesn’t short circuit and, you know, catch fire.

3. Try and keep your batteries in their original packaging.

4. Try to keep each battery away from metal objects, like coins, keys and jewelry.

5. Ensure your device is secured so it doesn’t accidentally turn on by accident.


Another Battery Safety Tip…

Never charge a non-rechargeable battery! They are not interchangeable and when a non-rechargeable is charged they become a major fire hazard. We think “do not bring on an airplane” goes without saying.

What do you think about the whole issue with lithium ion batteries overheating? Have you had any problems traveling with this kind of battery? Tell us all about it in the comments!


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About The Author

Mark Silvester

From Australia, skateboarder/explorer.