As of 2006, the FAA started tracking all battery-related incidents in the US airspace. The data is public and it centralizes incidents on both passenger planes and cargo planes. As you can notice in the infographic, we focused more on incidents that were reported on passenger planes as they are closer to the public interest.
Overall, passenger planes were involved in the majority of tracked incidents: 187 (64%) out of 289. Cargo planes were involved in 77 incidents, while a number of 25 incidents are not classified.
Looking at the average incidents number per year, we can observe a period of relative stability between 2006 and 2014 with anywhere between 1 and 8 incidents per year. However, starting with 2011 passenger planes saw a spike of battery-related incidents that suddenly grew to around 30/year.
Although 2020 seems like an outlier, it should be mentioned that the data included in the report was only up to August 2020. Not to mention the fact that the Pandemic hit this year, which reduced the number of passenger flights across the US by up to 80%.
In terms of airlines that were affected the most by these types of incidents, Delta Airlines comes up on top with 29 incidents followed by Southwest with 36, United with 23, and American Airlines with 10. Other airlines have less than 10 reported incidents in the given period.
In terms of devices that were linked as the cause of these incidents, power banks and other rechargeable batteries lead the report with 39 cases. In the 2nd place, we have vaping devices that generated 36 incidents. Laptops and tablets are 3rd on the list with 24 incidents, followed closely by cell phones that were linked to 22 cases.
Given the fact that power banks and other rechargeable batteries are one of the leading causes for battery-related incidents on passenger planes, we can easily understand why the FAA and TSA imposed limits on these batteries. One persona can take only a maximum of two batteries with a capacity of up to 100Wh each. For capacities between 100Wh and 160Wh, a permit is required, while any battery of over 160Wh is not allowed on board.
Furthermore, power banks and rechargeable batteries are only allowed in the carry-on luggage, and they’re not admissible in the checked-in luggage. This is due to the increased danger of an accidental fire that would happen in the cargo area of the plane as opposed to the passenger area. We discussed this topic in more detail here.
As it seems from the FAA report, battery-related incidents are on the increase. This means that they might become more heavily regulated and current rules might be more intensely enforced. So airline passengers should be mindful whenever they travel with any type of rechargeable Li-ion battery.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when traveling with a power bank:
- Make sure the device is made by a reputable brand. Low-quality power banks are notorious for breaking down and even catching fire.
- Make sure that the power bank capacity is clearly stated on the device. If not, at least have the original packaging with details about its capacity. Don’t ask airport security to trust your word regarding the capacity of your device.
- Don’t forget any type of rechargeable batteries in your checked-in luggage. Not even small devices such as rechargeable hair clippers. You might be asked to remove them from your checked-in luggage.
- Make sure your power bank comes with safety features such as overcharge, over-discharge, and short-circuit protection.
- Keep your power bank in a pouch and make sure it cannot be accidentally switched on during the flight.
- Do not use your power bank during the flight.
If you’re looking for a good power bank to take on your future flights, we created a curated list of some of the best options in our opinion.