Safety and Security Rules for Batteries

Collection of batteries What's allowed what is not allowed when it comes to batteries on aircraft changes over time. Most smaller batteries used in consumer electronics, such as laptops, cell phones, handheld games, and other personal electronic devices, are allowed as both as checked and carry-on luggage items. Spare batteries must be protected from damage and short circuit. Battery-powered devices should be protected from getting turned on accidentally. The information below will give you some idea of what is allowed and what is not allowed on an aircraft.

Batteries Allowed in Carry-on Baggage

  1. Dry cell alkaline batteries such as your typical AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, or button sized batteries that power most common small electrical or electronic items.
  2. Dry cell rechargeable batteries such as Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (NiCad). These kinds of batteries are similar to those used in flashlights or common electronic devices that are allowed on board the aircraft. These kinds of batteries should either be installed in the device, or safety packed such as in its original packaging from the store. If they are loose batteries, you could safety travel with them by putting them inside of individual sealable plastic bags, or by using tape or some other kind of covering on the battery terminal to protect the terminals from a short circuit.
  3. Lithium ion batteries (including rechargeable lithium, lithium polymer, LIPO, secondary lithium) are allowed, but with some limits. Passengers may carry consumer-sized lithium ion batteries with no more than 8 grams of equivalent lithium content or 100 watt-hours (wh) of power per battery]. This size covers AA, AAA, 9-volt, cell phone, PDA, camera, handheld game, standard laptop computer batteries, or a camcorder battery. Passengers can also bring up to two larger lithium ion batteries that each contain between 8 and 25 grams of equivalent lithium content per battery in their carry-on luggage. This size covers larger extended-life laptop batteries.
  4. Lithium metal batteries, including non-rechargeable lithium and 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, as well as the flat round lithium button cells sometimes used for calculators.

Batteries Allowed in Checked Luggage

Except for spare (uninstalled) lithium batteries, and spillable wet cell batteries (the kind used in cars and motorcycles), all the batteries types allowed in carry-on baggage are also allowed in checked baggage. The batteries must be properly packed to prevent damage and short circuiting (terminals are prevented from touching metal). If it is installed in a device, the device should be turned off.

More on Lithium Batteries

The term "lithium battery" may refer to a lithium ion battery, lithium metal battery, or a lithium polymer battery. Lithium polymer batteries are a kind of lithium ion battery. Lithium ion batteries re rechargeable lithium batteries, like the ones found in cameras, cell phones, laptop computers, and radio-controlled toys. While smaller lithium ion batteries are allowed on aircraft, larger ones containing more than 25 grams Equivalent Lithium Content (ELC) are not. An indirect measure of ELC is watt-hours, with eight grams ELC being equal to about 100 watt-hours. If you are not sure of your battery's ELC or watt-hour measurement, or if your kind of battery is allowed on the flight, check with your airline or with the manufacturer of your battery.

Another kind of lithium battery that is banned from airliners are lithium metal batteries with more than two grams of lithium. The lithium metal batteries commonly used by consumers usually don't have this much lithium, but if you are unsure you should check.

Taking Batteries Through Security

Currently, the TSA does not make you take out for separate screening your notebook or laptop computer battery, or batteries from smaller electronic devices, so you can keep these batteries inside your device as you go though security. However, TSA rules change frequently, so it you are unsure if your battery will be allowed, ask an airline representative.

Wheelchair Battery Exception

While spillable wet cell batteries (the kind of battery used in cars or motorcycles) are normally not allowed on aircraft in checked or carry-on baggage, you can bring them on an aircraft if they are part of a passenger's electric wheelchair. The airline will likely have the battery removed from the wheelchair and transported in a special container. If you have a wheelchair with a spoilable battery, you should arrive at the airport early and notify an airline agent that the battery is a wet cell spillable battery. Non-spillable wheelchair batteries are allowed if they meet other battery requirements.

Other Battery Safety Hints

  1. Whenever possible, keep batteries and related equipment with you, or in carry-on baggage, rather than in your checked baggage. In the unlikely case of a battery related problem such as overheating, you and the cabin crew will be in a better position to deal with the problem.
  2. Buy batteries from reputable sources and only use batteries approved for your device. Also, avoid batteries that you think may be a counterfeit since they may not be manufactured to the proper safety specifications.
  3. Do not carry recalled, dead, or damaged batteries on aircraft. If you suspect that your battery has been recalled, check the manufacturer's website, or with an appropriate organization such as the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  4. Only charge batteries which you are sure are rechargeable. Non-rechargeable batteries are not designed for recharging, and may become hazardous if placed in a battery charger, or cause damage later during use. Also, only use a charger compatible with your model of rechargeable battery.
  5. If original packaging is not available for spare batteries, pack them so that the battery terminals can't contact other batteries, or with metal objects, such as coins, keys, or jewelry.
  6. Place each battery in its own protective case, plastic bag, or package, or place tape across the battery's contacts to isolate terminals. Isolating terminals prevents short-circuiting.
  7. Avoid crushing, puncturing, or putting a high degree of pressure on any battery, as this can cause an internal short-circuit, resulting in overheating.
  8. If you must carry a battery-powered device in any baggage, package it to prevent inadvertent activation. For example, you should pack a cordless power tool in a protective case, with a trigger lock engaged.
  9. If you want to keep your battery-powered device off during the flight, take extra steps like taping the on-off switch in the "off" position.

Other Battery Resources

FAA Brochure on Batteries
Baggage Basics for Checked and Carry-on Items
Carry-on Baggage Advice
Top 10 Baggage Tips
Hazardous and Prohibited Baggage Items

Airline Safety and Security Rules for Batteries
http://airsafe.com/issues/baggage/batteries.htm -- Revised 28 January 2011

Photo: tomblois