Flying to the US? Watch your lithium

January 2, 2008 // 10 a.m.

Tags: #aeroplane #airline #airplane #batteries #battery #dot #exploding #explosion #laptop #lithium #safety #transport #travel

The US Department of Transport has created a new set of rules that prevent air travellers from carrying batteries based on lithium-containing technologies in the hold.

The rules, created by the Department as a response to one-too-many news stories about exploding laptop batteries, allow you to carry a small number of spare batteries in your hand luggage but not to have any checked into the cargo hold.

The rules are, as seems to be standard for airline regulations, somewhat oblique: you can carry batteries with up to eight grams of “equivalent lithium content” per battery so long as you don't exceed two spare batteries with an “aggregate equivalent lithium content” of 25 grams. If the battery is a straight lithium type (as used in some digital cameras) rather than lithium-ion or lithium-polymer, you're limited to two grams of lithium per battery.

To put it another way, don't carry more than two spare laptop batteries. Why the DOT couldn't have just said that in the first place we'll never know.

Another interesting addition to the rules for taking gadgets with you when you travel is a recommendation that you “by taping the activation switch in the “off” position” to “ensure that devices remain switched off.” While this seems a bit extreme, especially in carry-on baggage where you don't need to empty half the hold to find a digital camera that's beeping, it's certainly good advice to make sure that they stay off if only so you don't arrive at your destination with dead batteries.

The rules came into effect on the 1st January this year. There's no news yet of any other countries introducing similar restrictions. If you're really worried, the DOT has thoughtfully provided a printable 'Quick Action Guide'.

A sensible precaution, or has the whole 'exploding battery' thing been blown (ho-ho) out of all proportion? Let us know your thoughts, especially if you're a gadget-hungry traveller who's been caught out by the new rules, via the forums.
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