Lithium Ion Cells and Batteries Banned from Passenger Airplanes


The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration published a notice in the Federal Register dated 04/07/2016 announcing actions from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the prohibition to transport lithium ion cells and batteries on passenger carrying airplanes.  ICAO is a United Nations specialized agency that develops policies and standards with the goal of creating a safe and secure aviation segment.

Lithium batteries can be electric accumulators used to store and supply electricity as in the case of rechargeable batteries.  Battery charging occurs when a direct current is passed through the accumulator producing certain chemical changes.  When the terminals of the accumulator are subsequently connected to an external circuit, the chemical changes reverse and produce a direct current in the external circuit that drains the power and the battery is discharged.

As lithium batteries are made more powerful in order to provide faster charging and extend battery life, there is also an incremental potential for creating a hazard situation that may include overheating, smoke, fire or explosion that could compromise the airplane.

Additional restrictions for the transport of lithium ion cells and batteries require that they are shipped on cargo airplanes only at a state of charge of no more than 30 percent of their rated capacity, and that the number of packages of both lithium ion and lithium metal batteries cannot exceed one package per consignment or overpack.

Personal electronic devices containing lithium batteries carried by passengers or crew are not affected by this prohibition, however, they may be subject to specific airline safety guidelines and requirements.