Will Lithium Ion Batteries Be Banned From Flights?

Amidst concern relating to a fire on a Boeing 787, the spectre has been raised that Lithium Ion batteries may be entirely banned from the cargo holds of planes.

The Lithium Ion batteries in question were those used within Boeing's 787 Dreamliner planes, but it appears that there may be moves to ban all Lithium Ion batteries from plane cargo. Venture Beat reports that the International Air Transport Association wants to move all shipments of such batteries off planes. Initial reports suggested that some airlines might ban them outright over fire fears — I'd suggest such a move would be commercial suicide for any long-haul airline wanting to retain passengers — and it appears that Cathay Pacific may already be stopping shipment of Lithium Ion batteries on its cargo aircraft.

The Seattle Times goes into more detail on the precise issue for larger Lithium Ion batteries, noting that Boeing most likely opted for Lithium Ion due to the lower mass of battery needed for a precise amount of power. It quotes Vince Battaglia, a specialist in battery design at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California:

"nothing is safe — you’ve still got a lot of energy and an electrolyte in there that’s flammable."

What's the practical uptake likely to be? Most airlines already either severely restrict or outright ban you putting lithium ion batteries above relatively small capacities into checked luggage over fire fears, but it seems highly unlikely that they'll implement any kind of in-cabin ban, simply because no airline would want to be the first to act and lose valuable business passengers to rival airlines. It could mean, however, that you'll have to be even more careful with how you pack your checked luggage in the future.

Lithium-ion batteries may be banned from some airplanes’ cargo after Boeing 787 fires and Lithium-ion batteries pack a lot of energy — and challenges [VentureBeat and The Seattle Times]


    I think it's only a matter of time before Lithium batteries are banned from flights, at least as hold luggage. They've been implicated in a large enough number of cargo flight crashes for there to already be talks of tightening restrictions.

    I'd like to make some ironically amusing comment, but I was beaten to it by three-and-a-half years: http://xkcd.com/651/

      I was thinking exactly that. Xkcd turns out not only to be hilarious, but also prophetic.
      It's idiotic to ban personal lithium batteries, as they do not pose any threat.
      All the supposed crashes that have been attributed to lithium batteries have been found to be non-produceable in tests-
      Yes, when used Inside the plane IF they catch fire they can damage the wiring, but a laptop battery is exactly harmless.

    So anyone who owns a laptop...camera...or a PHONE...is going to be banned? Yeah, good luck with that one, Cathay!

    Last edited 22/01/13 12:40 am

      No. The majority of cameras don't use Lithium Ion batteries. And you can buy other devices that use other kinds of batteries.

      And it's just not Cathay Pacific - a lot of airlines are considering the ban. If you don't like it, you don't have to fly. Catch train, bus, or boat.

        The airline industry is hurting enough as it is. If they don't want customers, no problem, but it's on them if they collapse.

        I kind of do, seeing as my family's in England.

        My phone, laptop and camera all use Li-Ion batteries too. Whilst you can buy products using other kind of batteries, why should you have to re-buy everything you have ever bought which uses batteries?

        Also, Li-Ion batteries are so much better than any other kind in terms of battery life.

        Last edited 22/01/13 11:38 am

          You don't have to fly to England. When Ray Warren went to the Olympics (to call for Channel 9) he went by boat, as he refuses to fly.

          And they're not talking about banning the products that use those batteries, only the batteries. Have a battery at your families place in England, have 1 here.

            Don't you see how impractical that is?

            I'd love to see you remove my iPod (old school) battery btw from its sealed housing.

            You're suggesting that I spend double the money for a flight and 6 weeks there and 6 weeks back on a boat because of a stupid rule banning me from taking a very common item on a plane? - why is it not considered dangerous on a boat?

            So, if you were my boss, you'd just give me 4 months off for shits and giggles?

              That's why you should never buy devices that don't have a removable battery. I never have. Gotten on just fine. Never owned an iPod. Bought an MP3 player 4 years before the iPod came out - had removable battery. Other 4 I've bought since - again all had removable batteries - and at similar price to the iPods ($280 for my last one a year ago).

              And it's obvious why it's safer on boat - now laptop batteries Australia Post and other courier companies won't ship by air. It goes by truck. That's why you sign that declaration - and falsely signing the declaration = jail time. Any parcels without that declaration won't go by air.

    There is absolutely no way an airliner is going to ban Lithium batteries from flights. It would be commercial suicide. Think about it: Every phone, laptop, MP3 player, PDA, ereader and most modern cameras use lithium ion batteries. Hell my laptop has two and I carry a spare for my camera as well. They wouldn't ban them from cargo either. New electronic devices are almost universally sent by air. Imagine all the gazillions of iPhone and Samsung Galaxy's not being transported by your airline... fat chance.

    Furthermore, the 787 fires haven't actually been proven to be a fault with the battery. The Japanese are suggesting over-voltage may have been the cause!

      @mo - The battery's not looking innocent yet. Overvoltage may not have been the cause.


      As to banning them from cargo, don't bet on it not happening. If they are implicated in spontaneous fires, they WILL be banned.

      An airliner might not, but Governments might. Then airlines have to abide by it - and same with the pat-down searches at airports to which they say "Don't like it, don't fly"

    Brawndo's got what batteries crave. It's got Electrolytes

    I don't think the proposal is to ban all lithium-ion batteries, but just ones over a certain capacity. Batteries in you phone or camera are probably fine. Banning laptop batteries is more of an issue, but not totally impracticable. They could arrange for these batteries to be placed in a special part of the plane for example. The danger is larger ones though (e.g. if someone has an electric scooter in their luggage).

    Australia Post refused to let me slow-mail a netbook to a friend in the US, because they're not allowed to mail the batteries. They helpfully suggested that I could drop the battery in their courier (FedEx) envelope (and then get charged $200 to mail the battery, plus $120 to mail the netbook.... I don't think so!). As a result, my friend didn't get her netbook.

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