With one little change in a technicality, the US Department of Transportation may just make your laptop and iPhone more expensive to buy over the Internet, or very difficult to carry with you through airport security. As ridiculous as it all sounds, this is a real proposition – it comes from their plans to be very strict about small batteries in flights. Large laptop batteries carried as a spare, are usually banned in your checked-in luggage because they are considered an explosive risk. But small batteries, the kinds seen in laptops and cell phones, have always been exempt.
They have always been placed under a category known as “class 9 hazardous materials”, and they have been always made exempt. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration feels, that this isn’t fair anymore, and wants to remove the exemption on laptop and cell phone batteries. It used to be that you could just carry your spare batteries in your cabin baggage. Now if you travel on business, travel luggage you pack cannot include unattached batteries of any kind, small or large.
When you buy a laptop or cell phone online, Amazon or whoever you buy from, will be forced to use extra strong and heavy packaging to comply with these new rules. Apparently, the government cottoned on to a certain loophole. If a distributor ships a thousand laptop batteries on an airplane, he never had to obtain special documentation, or use any special packaging. All because each battery is pretty small. However, if a passenger checks in a single large battery, he is held for it. What they wish to do is, make sure that batteries right across the board are not allowed, so that large quantities of small batteries that could technically together present a risk when placed together, will not slip through the cracks in the rules.
From now on, the business travel luggage you take to the airport, will be stopped for every electronic device on it; and every shipment of anything electronic, an iPod, a hearing aid or anything, that in travels on UPS, will have the shippers and the manufacturers paying for all the hazardous material shipping song and dance. Everyone at the airport who handles an iPod on a shipment, will be required to wear full hazardous material battle gear.
That should add $50 to the cost of any electronic device; and this will really take away the edge that online shops have, over the regular stores. Passengers may still carry spare batteries onboard though. But they would have to be in a fireproof container accessible to the pilot. What that’ll mean is, that there will be a big old box next to the pilot full of everyone’s electronics. So how did this come about anyway? It’s just that over the last 20 years, there have been isolated incidents, about 30 or 40 of them, of lithium batteries catching on fire while in flight. And that is 30 or 40, among maybe 100 billion batteries shipped. And for this, commonsense dictates to them that they stop every business traveler, luggage and all, to get that one battery in his bag.