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Laptops may be banned from checked-in luggage soon: Here's why

Many air travellers fly with multiple devices that use lithium-ion batteries like: phones, laptops, tablets, e-readers, smartwatches and fitness band

BS Web Team 

laptop ban on flight

You might soon be barred from keeping your laptop in checked-in luggage while travelling by plane, if the recommendation of an international air safety panel is implemented.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), laptops could cause a cargo blaze that fire-fighting equipment aboard might not be able to extinguish. This could "lead to the loss of the aircraft".
While the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not commented on the proposal, it would be up to regulators in individual nations to pass rules to enforce it.

Fire hazard on planes:

The ICAO, a Canada-based UN organisation will set up a research on the risk of fires from laptops. However, concern that lithium batteries pose a fire hazard on planes is not new.

There have been studies on the risk of fires on planes posed by lithium batteries going back years. In 2015 US airlines banned hoverboards from their planes due to concerns about the fire risk posed by their lithium batteries.

If the lithium-ion battery inside a laptop heats up too much inside the checked baggage compartment of a plane, it has the potential to start a fire, according to reported tests conducted by the US Federal Aviation Administration. If that fire spreads to, say, a can of dry shampoo, the can might explode. 

Has lithium batteries ever exploded on a flight? Yes, they have

Many air travellers fly with multiple devices that use lithium-ion batteries: phones, laptops, tablets, e-readers, smartwatches, fitness band, and more. As these batteries have become so widely used, the number of incidents involving exploding lithium-ion batteries on planes also appears to be on the rise.

In May 2017, a JetBlue flight from New York's JFK Airport to San Francisco made an emergency landing in Grand Rapids, Michigan after a laptop stored in a carry-on bag exploded and caught fire. The scare draws new attention to the potential hazards of lithium-ion batteries on an aircraft at 30,000 feet

In February 2016, the explosive device built into a laptop computer that detonated last week on a Somali passenger jet was "sophisticated" and got past X-ray machines at the Mogadishu airport. The device blew a hole in the skin of the Daallo Airlines plane on February 2 but did not down the aircraft, because it detonated 20 minutes into the flight, before it reached cruising altitude. The suspected bomber was blown out of the plane, and his body was recovered on the ground near Mogadishu. The plane returned to the airport. Two people aboard were injured.

This incident brought to light how terrorists could hide explosives in laptops

Ban impact on Indians

The proposals of ICAO make it clear that it would be up to regulators in individual nations to pass rules to enforce the ban. However, if the ban is imposed in India, it is less likely to have an impact on Indian, who like most other people prefer carrying their precious laptops in hand. 

Why laptops must not be in check-in luggage

Given the possibility of theft, damage, and loss, packing your laptop in a checked bag is not a good idea to begin with. Even so, travelers continue to stow their computers and other large electronics in their checked luggage.

Remember - Your laptop is at the mercy of baggage handlers and bumpy while in transit. This means that the threat to your electronics is two-fold: you need to protect your devices from burglary as well as breakage.

Even airlines don't want you putting pricey electronics in your check-in luggage. Once a bag is checked, it's tossed around between conveyor belts, trucks and planes. One bad hit could do serious damage.

Many airlines specifically say they will not be held liable if these types of items break or are lost. They warn against packing valuable or breakable items like computers in checked baggage.

First Published: Wed, October 25 2017. 15:32 IST