Packing Alert! TSA Changes Rules on Lithium Batteries
Just announced, the TSA is changing the rules for Lithium batteries effective January 1, 2008:
Passengers will no longer be able to pack loose lithium batteries in checked luggage beginning January 1, 2008 once new federal safety rules take effect. The new regulation, designed to reduce the risk of lithium battery fires, will continue to allow lithium batteries in checked baggage if they are installed in electronic devices, or in carry-on baggage if stored in plastic bags.
Common consumer electronics such as travel cameras, cell phones, and most laptop computers are still allowed in carry-on and checked luggage. However, the rule limits individuals to bringing only two extended-life spare rechargeable lithium batteries, such as laptop and professional audio/video/camera equipment lithium batteries in carry-on baggage.
“Doing something as simple as keeping a spare battery in its original retail packaging or a plastic zip-lock bag will prevent unintentional short-circuiting and fires,” said Krista Edwards, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Lithium batteries are considered hazardous materials because they can overheat and ignite in certain conditions. Safety testing conducted by the FAA found that current aircraft cargo fire suppression system would not be capable of suppressing a fire if a shipment of non-rechargeable lithium batteries were ignited in flight.
“This rule protects the passenger,” said Lynne Osmus, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assistant administrator for security and hazardous materials. “It’s one more step for safety. It’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
Basically this means if your camera, camcorder or computer takes lithium batteries (and more and more do), you can have the main battery in the device, and up to 2 more in your *carry on*, recommended to be in individual plastic bags to prevent fire danger.
My recommendation is if you have lithium batteries for your devices as I do, either place each one separately in small plastic bags or wrap them in plastic wrap, and separate them into your "carry on" and "personal item" to go through the x-ray machine. My guess is you could even put 2 per bag (wrapped separately) and no one will notice, as they'll be inspecting per bag, not per person. This conceivably means that 2 people traveling together could have up to 8 batteries in their carry ons/personal items, plus the batteries actually in their devices.
Expect there to be a *lot* of confusion about this over the next month or so. I'd anticipate some airports to interpret this as no batteries allowed, others to require them to be wrapped in plastic or baggies, or other such inconsistencies. Be prepared for it. I'd also not be surprised if some airports "interpret" this rule to mean you need to remove your batteries to go through screening separately, like your liquids and laptop. Just be prepared with the batteries easily accessible... and pack your patience right with the batteries, also to be reached easily, as it'll most likely be necessary as this rule gets implemented.