Lithium-ion batteries on planes: Are they safe?

Lithium-ion batteries on planes: Are they safe?

As air travel resumes, the potential for battery-related fires aboard flights is a growing concern. Recent incidents, like the February 19, 2024, fire on Royal Air Philippines flight RW602 caused by a power bank explosion, underscore the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries, which power our everyday devices, contain significant energy and can pose fire or explosion risks if damaged or short-circuited. These risks are heightened during air travel, leading to strict regulations and safety protocols.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have specific guidelines for lithium batteries:

Lithium batteries must be in carry-on luggage and comply with power rating limits. Spare lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries, including power banks, are not allowed in checked baggage.

IATA’s 65th Edition of the Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) offers comprehensive guidance for shippers, airlines, and passengers. This includes restrictions on power banks exceeding 160Wh.

Many airlines restrict power banks with capacities over 160Wh. However, smaller power banks, like a 20,000mAh unit (which is less than 100 watt-hours), are typically permitted in carry-on baggage.

The FAA advises travellers to keep devices with lithium batteries in carry-on baggage, turned off, and protected from damage.

While lithium batteries are essential for modern conveniences, passengers must follow regulations to minimize the risk of fires during air travel.