July 11, 2016

Packing portable power for your flight: New rules you need to know

By Team Ventev Topic: Tech Specs

Having portable power for your phone, iPod, or tablet on a long flight can be a lifesaver. But if you’re flying to some far-off destination this summer, it’s time to plan ahead – or risk getting stuck talking to the random guy in the seat next to you rather than defeating the next level of Candy Crush.

You may have heard earlier this year about new rules from the International Air Transport Association about carrying spare electronics batteries on planes. There are limits to how many a traveler can bring, but most of you should be just fine with a little planning.

For the most part, it’s wise to double check with the TSA before you fly. That goes ditto for your airline, as they don’t all have the same rules.  But if you’re ordering or shipping portable power devices, you’ll have to look a little closer at these regulations and double check with your shipper.

It’s pretty dense stuff, and it doesn’t make entertaining reading. Don’t worry. We read the IATA’s rules and other guidance on airplanes and portable power to give you some guidance on how to pack and what to ask if you have questions, whether or shipping power packs.

Here are the basics:

For passengers:

  • Spare lithium batteries can’t go in the cargo hold of an airplane. That means you have to pack them in your carry-on bags.
  • This rule applies only to spares. Which means if you have a battery in your laptop, you are OK putting it in your luggage, but check with your airline first. (Although putting a laptop in your luggage might not be a good idea for many other reasons.)
  • Spare batteries in carry-on baggage should have tape over any exposed terminals to prevent short circuiting. They should also be kept separate from coins or other metal objects that may connect the terminals and cause a short.
  • Phone battery packs and the Ventev Powercell don’t have terminals, so you are OK bringing them on a plane.
  • For large lithium batteries above 100 watt-hours, you’re only allowed to bring two. For the most part, mobile batteries like the kind used to power your phone or laptop don’t count as large. Extended power packs and the types of batteries used by camera crews, however, may fit into this category.
  • There may be other rules regarding very large batteries, such as those used to power motorized wheelchairs. Those used to power hoverboards may be prohibited by your airline. Check before you leave the house.

If you are buying and shipping batteries:

  • Spare lithium batteries that are shipped via air cannot be fully charged. They’ll be limited to 30 percent of capacity.
  • Again, this doesn’t apply to batteries that are inside equipment.
  • If you are buying more than one battery at a time, check with your dealer about shipping options because there are additional rules that may apply.

Those rules are going to cover most people, but there are additional ones that come into play if you need to move batteries in large quantities or if you need to move large batteries. There are also some waivers if you move emergency medical equipment. People with big battery needs, like documentary film crews or retailers, for example, should do a bit more research.

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