Lithium batteries on planes: 8 tips on how to travel safely with batteries

With the summer holidays fast approaching, many of us will be flying out of UK airports for our annual holiday. As we know, airlines have detailed guidelines on what is allowed onboard and that includes taking lithium batteries on planes.

Lithium batteries are commonly used to power a wide variety of consumer goods ranging from mobile phones to laptops and children’s toys, however, they can pose a safety risk if not treated in accordance with transport regulations. While most lithium batteries are safe, some have overheated and caught fire, which could produce toxic and irritating fumes.

Most smaller batteries used in widely held items such as the aforementioned and other personal electronic devices are allowed as both, check-in and carry-on luggage items, with some limits. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website has details of restrictions on flying with batteries. Dry cell alkaline batteries, typically AA, AAA and so on are allowed in check-in and hand baggage but if you are planning on taking devices or items that contain lithium batteries on planes, read on:

Lithium batteries on planes

Lithium battery refers to a family of batteries comprising many types of cathodes and electrolytes and divides into two main types:

A. Lithium metal batteries – non-rechargeable batteries that have lithium metal or lithium compounds as an anode are generally used to power devices such as watches and cameras.

B. Lithium ion batteries – a type of rechargeable battery commonly used in consumer electronics such as mobile telephones, laptop computers, etc.

UK aviation restrictions apply to portable electronic devices containing lithium-ion batteries exceeding a Watt-hour rating of 100 Wh but not exceeding 160 Wh – when carried for personal use. The watt-hour (Wh) rating is a measure by which lithium ion batteries are regulated. You can calculate the number of watt-hours your battery provides if you know the battery’s nominal voltage (V) and capacity in ampere-hours (Ah) using this calculation – Ah x V = Wh. This information is often marked on the battery.

In terms of specific airline advice for lithium batteries on planes, British Airways, have comprehensive guidelines on their website for carrying lithium ion and metal batteries which include the following.

8 simple tips

1. Pack all battery-powered devices to prevent accidental activation.

2. Protect spare batteries from short circuit and damage by keeping them in their original packaging (if possible) or in a protective case

3. Don’t take any damaged batteries or equipment

For batteries of up to 100Wh as used in mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras etc.

In hand baggage

4. Keep them in the device

5. A maximum of four spares per person kept in the original packaging or insulated/protected from contact with metal

6. Lithium metal batteries must not exceed 2g lithium content and lithium ion batteries must not exceed 100Wh

In checked baggage

7. Kept in the device

8. No spares allowed

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines has provided useful guidelines (as PDF) for travelling with lithium batteries on planes and devices containing lithium batteries, and this useful video:

Additionally, those of us with smart luggage should note that on 15 January 2018, baggage equipped with a lithium battery, where the lithium battery is designed to charge other devices and cannot be removed from the luggage, was forbidden for carriage.

If you are not sure of your battery’s watt-hour measurement, or if a specific type of battery is allowed on the flight, do check with your airline or with the manufacturer of your battery.

So happy and safe packing and enjoy your holidays!

Joanna Fernandez travel journalist, portrait photo Jo Fernandez is a leading UK travel journalist, with much of her career spent working for the London Evening Standard where she was Travel Editor until 2015. Now a freelance travel journalist and copywriter, she lives in Essex and has one daughter. As a travel expert, she still enjoys jetting off to write travel pieces, with favourite destinations including Mexico, Croatia and, of course, Essex.

By Jo Fernandez

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