The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council has approved a new amendment addressing international instructions on the carriage of active small lithium battery powered electronic devices in checked baggage.
Based on the revised requirement, devices powered by small lithium batteries in checked baggage can stay turned on during the flight, provided their lithium metal battery’s lithium content is less than 0.3 grams, or if its lithium ion battery’s output is less than 2.7 Wh.
For devices with lithium batteries that exceed the above limits, the obligation to turn them off in checked baggage remains.
The Council Decision follows on recommendations from the Air Navigation Commission and its Dangerous Goods Panel, which had advised that restrictions were unnecessary for such small lithium batteries and cells.
Between January 2006 and July 2022, at least 375 incidents of smoke, heat, fire or explosion involving lithium batteries in air cargo or hold baggage have been recorded, according to FAA data. Lithium batteries can pose a safety and security risk in the cabin as well as the hold. The Federal Aviation Administration has previously given examples of passengers being careless with lithium battery powered devices. A mobile phone becoming trapped between seats seems like a common and harmless occurrence, for example, but in several cases the batteries inside the phones have overheated, requiring airline staff to take emergency action to ensure the safety of the flight.
The challenge for the aviation industry is to strike the right balance between securing a known risk with passenger convenience now that such batteries power devices used in everyday life. ICAO’s amendment for small batteries and cells seeks to do just that.