The main types of batteries are described under the headings below, to help you decide whether you can carry your batteries with you when you travel by air. Generally, if you have lithium batteries, battery powered electronic or other small consumer items, the batteries and items are safe to take with you. There are a few things to consider however, and while there are some variations depending on airlines or jurisdictions most follow a generally common-sense approach. All airlines apply the ‘for personal use’ policy.
In addition IATA held a workshop in Canada at the end of September 2015 to discuss improvements in the carriage of lithium batteries which will be attended by representatives from airlines, battery manufacturers and shippers. This is likely to result in some minor adjustments, though probably more aimed at shippers rather than passengers.
Economy Traveller continues to monitoring the latest restrictions on the carrying of electronic devices (including cameras) larger than a average sized mobile phone.
UPDATES: lithium batteries, battery powered devices
- Do you use any ‘Smart Baggage’ which uses Integrated Lithium Batteries and/or Electronics? Many airlines, including Malaysia Airlines, who have issued this advisory, restrict their carriage effective 15th January 2018.
- Since October 2016, the Samsung Note 7 is on the list of prohibited items for carriage following a number of well publicised cases of exploding batteries. The US has issued a blanket ban and other countries and airlines are generally following this advisory.
- In December 2015 Qantas joined a number of airlines, including American Airlines, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific in updating their dangerous goods policy. They no longer accept carriage of self-balancing boards, also known as hover boards, in carry-on or checked baggage across its domestic and international network.
- This includes include devices with single wheels such as uni-wheels and air-wheels, as well as devices with two wheels, including hover boards, air boards, smart scooters and mini segways. These devices usually contain lithium ion batteries and there have been various issues reported relating to their safety. If not properly handled, they may short circuit internally, leading to overheating. Therefore, you’ll have to leave them at home.
- Following an incident on a Malindo Air flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur in October 2015 most airlines have restricted carriage of electronic cigarettes. The device may not be used during the flight and must be turned off. Any spare batteries should not be packed in checked luggage.
We, the travelling public really need to know what we can and can’t carry, so….
This includes both rechargeable and non-rechargeable lithium batteries, including
- cell phone batteries,
- laptop batteries,
- external batteries,
- portable rechargers (or power banks)
- hand tool batteries as described below
- It also includes the batteries used in your cameras and the little round ones in your camera remote.
These are all fine and you can take them with you. There isn’t generally a limit on the number you can carry, but they must be stored or installed correctly. The + and – terminals must not be allowed to connect, and you should put them in your hand carry baggage.
As the airport bag scanner is usually your first stop at the airport, make sure that any batteries are already removed so you don’t have to remove them at that point.
Check the rating on the battery as well.
Rechargeable lithium ion batteries, such as the ones shown here are limited to a rating of 160 watt hours (Wh) per battery. This should be printed on them.
UPDATE: Qantas has updated their advisory on this, stating that:
Lithium Ion battery (rechargeable) – exceeding 100Wh and up to 160Wh. Lithium ion batteries over 160Wh are forbidden as passenger baggage and must be sent as freight. Lithium Ion batteries must be declared during check-in. Only two spares per passenger.
Non- rechargeable lithium metal batteries are limited to 2 grams of lithium per battery.
If you’re carrying spares for either, ensure they are easy to remove, in case your hand carry bag is overweight. Airlines often take overweight bags at the departure gate to be stored in the hold. This handy info sheet from IATA (International Air Transport Association) summarises the latest information and includes clear information about Smart luggage, which have batteries installed.
Rechargeable Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries such as the ones shown. These include flash batteries, or if you just happen to be taking a robot vacuum cleaner with you, we’re talking about those. They need to be hand carried as well. If you are taking your robot cleaner (stop laughing!), remove the battery and pack the body in your checked baggage. Just take the battery with you in your hand luggage.
This also applies to Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) batteries. Both types must be 100Wh or less and properly packed to ensure that the terminals can’t touch. (original packing / tape the terminals or pack in individual containers)
These are your everyday AA, AAA, C, D or the rectangular 9V batteries. These are the ones you put in everything from clocks to children’s toys. They are environmentally unfriendly ones you use and throw away.
- Make sure they are not more than 12volts.
- Make sure they can’t make connections between + and -.
- Either keep them in the device, or if spares, in the original packaging.
Other types of batteries
These may include
- batteries for a mobility device,
- news camera lighting batteries,
- childrens’ toy vehicles or
- an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) for computer back-up.
These use Sealed Lead Acid Batteries / Non spillable wet batteries which contain either a gel or Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM). You may take these on board with you, but this type of product is usually heavy. They may be packed as checked baggage, but only when installed in the device. Spares must be carried in hand carry bags.
As always, if you’re not sure, please check with your airline. Most will also have this information readily available and it will usually appear in the check-list when you do an online check-in. A number of airlines do have specific guidelines for specific items. However, they don’t vary a lot and batteries are usually added into a list of ‘dangerous goods’. You can usually find this information in the Planning/Before you fly tabs on the airline website.
For further information IATA have material on Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR). If you are unsure or need more information on quantities or type, please contact the airline directly before you fly.
This article was first published in December 2015 and has been updated in September 2023.