Q1. What kinds of batteries does the FAA allow in carry-on baggage (in the aircraft cabin)?
A1. For carry-on baggage checked at the gate or planeside. Passengers can carry most consumer-type batteries and portable battery-powered electronic devices for their own personal use in carry-on baggage. Spare batteries must be protected from damage and short circuit. Battery-powered devices must be protected from accidental activation and heat generation. Damaged or recalled batteries, including when in a device, must not be carried. Batteries allowed in carry-on baggage include:
Dry cell rechargeable batteries such as Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (NiCad). For rechargeable lithium ion batteries; see next paragraph.
Lithium ion batteries (a.k.a.: rechargeable lithium, lithium polymer, LIPO, secondary lithium). Passengers may carry all consumer-sized lithium ion batteries (up to 100 watt hours per battery). This size covers AA, AAA, cell phone, PDA, camera, camcorder, handheld game, tablet, portable drill, and standard laptop computer batteries. The watt hours (Wh) rating is marked on newer lithium ion batteries and is explained in #3 below. External chargers are also considered to be a battery.
With airline approval, devices can contain larger lithium ion batteries (101-160 watt hours per battery), but spares of this size are limited to two batteries in carry-on baggage only. This size covers the largest aftermarket extended-life laptop batteries and most lithium ion batteries for professional-grade audio/visual equipment.
Lithium metal batteries (a.k.a.: non-rechargeable lithium, primary lithium). These batteries are often used with cameras and other small personal electronics. Consumer-sized batteries (up to 2 grams of lithium per battery) may be carried. This includes all the typical non-rechargeable lithium batteries used in cameras (AA, AAA, 123, CR123A, CR1, CR2, CRV3, CR22, 2CR5, etc.) as well as the flat round lithium button cells.
Nonspillable wet batteries (absorbed electrolyte), limited to 12 volts and 100 watt hours per battery. These batteries must be the absorbed electrolyte type (gel cells, AGM, etc.) that meet the requirements of 49 CFR 173.159a(d); i.e., no electrolyte will flow from a cracked battery case. Batteries must be in strong outer packagings or installed in equipment. Passengers are also limited to two (2) spare (uninstalled) batteries. Spare batteries’ terminals must be protected (non-conductive caps, tape, etc.) within the outer packaging. Batteries and outer packaging must be marked “nonspillable” or “nonspillable battery.” Note: This exception is for portable electronic devices, not for vehicle batteries. There are separate exceptions for powered wheelchairs.
Q2. What kinds of batteries does the FAA allow in checked baggage (including gate-checked bags)?
A2. Except for spare (uninstalled) lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries, all the batteries allowed in carry-on baggage are also allowed in checked baggage. The batteries must be protected from damage and short circuit or installed in a device. Battery-powered devices—particularly those with moving parts or those that could heat up—must be protected from accidental activation. Spare lithium metal and lithium ion/polymer batteries are prohibited in checked baggage—this includes external battery packs. Electronic cigarettes and vaporizers are also prohibited in checked baggage. “Checked baggage” includes bags checked at the gate or planeside.
Q3. How do I determine the watt hours (Wh) rating of a battery?
A3. To determine watt hours (Wh), multiply the volts (V) by the ampere hours (Ah). Example: A 12-volt battery rated to 8 Amp hours is rated at 96 watt hours (12 x 8 = 96). For milliamp hours (mAh), divide by 1000 (to get to Ah) and then multiply by the volts.
Q4. Is there a limit to the number of batteries or devices I can carry?
A4. The main limit is that the batteries and devices must be for personal use (includes professional use). Batteries and battery-powered devices carried for resale or for distribution by a vendor do not qualify for these exceptions. There is a two-spare limit on the large lithium-ion (101-160 Wh) and nonspillable batteries (see the chart on the next page).
Q5. What does “protected from short circuit” mean?
A5. When metal objects such as keys, coins, tools or other batteries come in contact with both terminals of a battery it can create a “circuit” or path for electricity to flow through. Electrical current flowing through this unprotected short circuit can cause extreme heat and sparks and even start a fire. To prevent short circuits, keep spare batteries in their original packaging, a battery case, or a separate pouch or pocket. Make sure loose batteries.
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