New Regulations For Batteries When Flying That Will Annoy Photographers

New Regulations For Batteries When Flying That Will Annoy Photographers

In preparation for my most recent flight, the airline sent me an update on their new baggage regulations in regards to batteries. Going forward, some airlines will be imposing new rules when it comes to flying with batteries. These new regulations are especially annoying to photographers as we not only tend to often fly with batteries, but we also like to bring along several sets of backup batteries as well.

Note: that these regulations may vary from location to location and airline to airline so it is always best to double check with your airline before flying. 

 

No Naked Batteries in Checked Luggage

This one rather surprised me but it seems to be out of some sort of fear of the batteries leaking or causing a fire. Perhaps fear related to Samsung's recent battery problems in their phones. Who knows? The rule is rather simple. Batteries installed within devices may be checked in your luggage as usual but batteries that are on their own cannot be placed in checked baggage.

Naked Batteries in Carry-on

Naked batteries, however, are still allowed in carry-on with one caveat. There must be no risk of their ends ever touching the ends of another battery. The airline I flew with addresses this problem by demanding spare batteries be packed in one of four ways. 

  1. The batteries are still in their retail packaging.
  2. The batteries each are in their own isolated container. (Such as wrapping each battery in cling wrap)
  3. The batteries have the connectors on either end completely covered with tape.
  4. The batteries are stored in a protective battery container.

 

This particular one seems incredibly unnecessary to me and after spending an hour taping sixty batteries it also reached a level of mythic frustration. There isn't anything to be done, though, unfortunately. The airlines and airports make the rules and if we want to use that service we need to follow them. Personally, I opted for the tape route as I had no time to go hunting for a battery case that met their requirements. 

Conclusion

As more and more airline security becomes layered on traveling becomes more and more annoying for photographers. Half of our gear can easily be misconstrued as a threat while the other half already has bizarre limitations or rules about how it can be transported. Make sure to stay vigilante and always be mindful of what the latest regulations may be as it could save you from encountering a giant headache next time you wish to fly.

 

 

 

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45 Comments

Mitchell Krog's picture

They sure are making things more and more complicated not only for photographers but everyone. One day they might not even allow people on aircrafts anymore if you don't "look" right :D or are not "packaged" right

Spy Black's picture

" One day they might not even allow people on aircrafts anymore if you don't "look" right :D or are not "packaged" right"

https://www.google.com/amp/www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mus...

Anonymous's picture

It really doesn't seem like a big deal to me, and personally I like using those cases to keep my charged vs. discharged batteries organized when I travel. I have the 4-battery cases and a piece of grip tape labeling which is which so I always have a fresh set. I do agree that it seems like a knee-jerk reaction to the Samsung issue, though.

Nick Viton's picture

Same. All my batteries are already stored and numbered as sets in 4-battery cases. However, I simply stagger battery orientation within the case to denote depleted batteries. No need for grip tape!

Anonymous's picture

LOL, I always overcomplicate things. I'll have to do that going forward.

Joe Schmitt's picture

I use Eneloop battery cases and always open the cover to the left. When the positive side is up, they're charged. Upside down...depleted. Just gotta find a system and be consistent with it.

Drew Pluta's picture

Exactly my system!

Zagato Zee's picture

Exactly what I've been doing for years too - so simple and allows you to tell at a glance if that box has a good set or a dead set.

Steve Benjamin's picture

This is sensible after all who wants a fire in the hold which no-one can get to whilst in the air?

Benjamin Hüttinger's picture

Why would you ever need to fly and carry 60! batteries with you?

Tomash Masojc's picture

Easy, for example you are strobist, you have 4-5 flashes, and you bring at least 2 packs of charged batteries for every flash.

Anonymous's picture

Even in the case of a strobist: each flash should have one set of batteries installed, resulting in one spare set of batteries per flash, which needs to be packed in hand luggage. 60 batteries would then equal to around 15 flashes (if each flash takes 4 batteries). I'm not sure but such an amount of flashes might indicate that it could be sensible to rethink the lighting method(s).

Anyhow, the rule that LiIon batteries shall not be packed in checked luggage (if not installed in gear) is already much older that the Samsung Note 7. Some years ago, Qantas had a fire in a plane caused by the transportation of such batteries (and Boeing's Dreamliner also had problems with it's batteries, resulting in fire). I think that the Samsung Note 7 made some airlines just more aware and pushing harder on fulfilling the rules.

Tomash Masojc's picture

5 flashes + 2 packs for every - 5x4 in flashes and 2x4x5 charged extra = 60. You think 5 lights sources it is a lot? check russian photographer Ilija Rashap works - 10 and more lights.

David Liang's picture

2x4x5 is 40 batteries. And 5 really is the limit if your doing stuff on location. 2 background lights, 2 rim, 1 key. Or 2 bg, 1 rim, 1 fill, 1 key. etc. If you need more...I really want to see what it is you're trying to achieve.

Tomash Masojc's picture

and 20 in flash already :) pls try to understand, what there are different types of photography, a lot of people use lights for artistic look Just for example:

http://art2photo.com/download/!NEW/1543w_1200.jpg

He use seperate light for every detail and person in the picture

Anonymous's picture

You don't need to tape the batteries in the flashes. Thus, your example gives 40 batteries to be taped...

There is only one sun in the sky. Using tons of light sources might result in an uncontrolled way how the light is falling (giving an unrealistic effect).

Examples in the linked photo: where does the warm light on the lady in red come from? (The projector has colder light). Also, it is not clear how the man in the chair can be so much brighter than the lady in the darkish dress? (The lamp should spill much more light on her.)
If the photographer's intention was an unrealistic look: ok.

Tomash Masojc's picture

yes, its like stopped frame from movie :) i can;t say that he wanted or that intentions was. Just showed you an example. Ofcourse all lights was continuous.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

how do these regulations affect camera battery packs or batteries for strobe like Hensel or Profoto? I put a piece of tape on those after I charge them anyway so I know it's charged up.
What kind of batteries were you taping? I'll guess rechargable AA? I carry some of those but not that many and they are already in a plastic carrier thing....I also buy a bunch of AA at Lowes, or Staples once I get to where I am going.

Garth Wood's picture

Battery carriers are cheap and widely available, *especially* for the AA battery form factor. I have boxes that hold 12 batteries at a time, which I use to store my Eneloop Pros, as well as battery caddies to hold groups of four. An example of the caddies are here: http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=72292&cat=1,43326,51918

You can get cases from camera stores, London Drugs, B&H online, Thomas Distributing online.

And slightly OT but hopefully still valuable info: the cheapest I've been able to find Eneloop Pros in Canada is off of Dell.ca -- and they include free shipping.

Caleb Kerr's picture

Well I guess I'll have to stop flying with a Pelican case full of loose AA batteries like I always do.

LA M's picture

Better safe than sorry...I'm surprised it took this long for them to start making an issue of this. I'm sure nobody wants their plane in the ocean because a handful of people have loose batteries rolling around in their luggage.

Jamie Kohns's picture

While 'naked' AA batteries might not seem dangerous, the growing popularity of higher voltage and current batteries like 18650 (my gimbal runs off 3 of these), are VERY dangerous. While building a prop, I accidentally shorted one of these out, and a contact spring melted through the battery case in seconds. Imagine that happening in your bag in the cabin, uncontrolled!

Tomash Masojc's picture

Or what could happen if you are vaping :D

Will Neder's picture

How many plane fires have been caused by carry on batteries? That seems like a relevant bit of info.

Anonymous's picture

Good point, but I think one fire would be too many, at least if I'm on the flight! Actually, if you read about the development on Boeing's latest plan which uses lithium ion batteries, they had lots of trouble with the batteries causing fires and had to build a special containment unit for them because it was happening so much.

Jay Jay's picture

Ok. I'm not quite sure what the problem is since it only costs* $1.99* for 6 of those clear cases on Amazon like you have pictured above. As in... under $2 bucks and with free shipping. All of my batteries are in battery cases like this, because who is crazy enough to store them loose in their bag and risk a fire if the contacts touch metal? It also makes packing a snap- grab a few of these loaded up, toss them in, and you're good.

Instead of taking an hour taping batteries (did you try to carry them on the plane loose?? Hopefully you wont ever do that if i'm on the same plane, bc that is *not* gonna work), i'll sell you a set of 6 clear storage cases for $2 bucks, because i'm nice like that.:)

Deleted Account's picture

I'm working as an avionics technician for a day job and knowing how frail and vulnerable aircraft actually are - without any serious fire fighting capabilities while being airborne - I'm fully siding with the airlines in this case. Sloppily packaged batteries bringing down only one airliner would be one too much.

A battery expert just recently called a battery "a bomb that discharges its energy in a controlled fashion". So true; I've seen large nickel-cadmium aviation batteries going off like a volcano or exploding, flame-belching lithium-polymer model airplane batteries. Apple had self-incinerating iPods some 15 years ago, Sony's lithium-ion 18650's in the mid 2000s cost them a fortune after setting laptops of multiple manufacturers on fire and Samsung right now had to kill their flagship phone due to uncontrollably discharging batteries. Not to mention Boeing's woes with the Dreamliner's lithium batteries.

I guess no one wants to live through the harrowing experience of flames and smoke violently shooting into an aircraft's cabin while cruising at 38,000 feet above ground and nothing but a thin aluminum shell and air between oneself and that ground. Up there there's no way of just pulling over to the curb and jumping out of the vehicle like you could do on the highway. So please be careful and attentive when packing your batteries to take them along in your flight baggage.

Ho Wai Man's picture

still safer than carrying a Samsung Galaxy S7

J J's picture

Seeing as the alternative is not being allowed to carry batteries it isn't so bad.

Ho Wai Man's picture

I've done it before and you're right. its not all that bad. Checked in my camera gear in a pelican and and kept all my batteries in my carry on. I had 3 x Fuji XT2 Batteries, 2 x Elinchrom Quadra ranger lithium batteries, 2 x DJI Osmo batteries, 8 x AAs 4 x AAAs and even going through the X-Ray they security just as me " did you forget any other batteries?' we laughed and I moved on. Simple.

William Wright's picture

This only makes sense. If you leave loose batteries getting thrown around in a bag, you end up with static electricity just waiting to spark on that lint you've been collecting.

This can be seen from people throwing their bare spare e-cig battery in their pockets and going about there day. Then they end up on the news because their "e-cig" blew up, when it was really just poor handling of batteries.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be at 30k ft. and some blow-hard's bag catches on fire because of loose batteries sparking.

Christian Berens's picture

This must be in retaliation of Lee Morris's "fake" media pass through airports, it's the most logical explanation

Drew Pluta's picture

This is really not that big of a deal. Any pro (or generally organized person) who would be affected by this should already employ these practices as a matter of organization. Who wants loose battery's banging into and grinding all over their gear as they travel? My first thought when buying a pile if Enloop's was "I better buy some cases to hold all these things in my bag."

Henry Louey's picture

Imagine if those batteries were a bowl of Skittles. If 3 of them were to explode - would you take the risk?

Ralph Hightower's picture

The 35mm film canisters can hold 2 AA batteries or 1 9V battery.

Daniel Schenkelberg's picture

Cheap fix, put batteries in a row and then use gaf tape to hold them together problem solved

Bill Foster's picture

I'm an airline pilot as well as a photographer and I believe that this is a minor inconvenience, but necessary. Put your batteries in a case in your carry on bag and be done with it. One of the reasons why the most complex form of transportation is also the safest is because of risk management. The FAA, aircraft manufacturers and airlines try to minimize as much risk as possible through best practices and rules that minimize risk. Lithium-ion batteries are no idle threat. There have been multiple reports of lithium battery-related fires on cargo planes. Lithium-Ion batteries pack a lot of power for their size and if they short-circuit they can overheat and create a chain reaction known as "thermal runaway," a cascading effect in which they reach very high temperatures and emit gasses that can fuel a fire or an explosion, especially if they're packed tightly with other lithium batteries. All aircraft, cargo or passenger, come equipped with fire suppression systems in cargo holds, but they might not be enough to stop such an intense blaze. Loose batteries in any bag are a hazard and tests performed at the FAA's Atlantic City laboratory have confirmed the risk. Do the right thing and don't check your batteries and place those with you in a case.

Simon Patterson's picture

This has been a rule for a long time here Australia. It's no big deal. Small snap lock bags are great for camera batteries and holders for aa/aaa batteries are easy to come by. The holders have the added advantage that you can orient batteries in the holder differently based on if they are fully charged or not.

Tony Triche's picture

I have to look at this from both sides.; being a photographer and working on board jetliners as a flight attendant.

Because I fly both domestic and International; I keep no less than my T6i with two lenses and flash and two back up batteries for my camera, and two sets of AA to back up my flash. I've been practicing battery safety since I migrated to digital 13 years ago.

I am well aware of WHY the airlines have become so skittish regarding battery safety. I have been in two incidents where batteries (one nickel-ion, the other lithium) have overheated or in the case of the lithium actually combusted spontaneously.

The lithium incident was terrorizing....as it happened on a phone left charging on seat power on a overnight flight.

With nearly 100% of passengers carrying at least one item with batteries it's a risk analyst's nightmare...as well as potentially fatal.

Chris Bernard's picture

I used to travel a great deal and I came to the conclusion that batteries are like tires for a car. I don't mess around anymore and I don't travel with any of my cheapo third party batteries when I fly. It's a failure point that will at best only destroy your equipment and worse potentially hurt you or others.

Brendan Jack's picture

This is a reasonable precaution. A UPS 747 cargo plane came down here in Dubai in 2010, while attempting an emergency turnaround and landing, narrowly missing a heavily populated area, killing the 2 crewmen, due to a spontaneous fire in the cargo hold fueled by lithium ion batteries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UPS_Airlines_Flight_6
The energy density of batteries is increasing, thanks to our desire for longer battery life & unplugging devices which traditionally had cords to power them. Batteries are basically slow release chemical bombs. The reaction is controlled under normal circumstances but can become uncontrolled under less usual circumstances. Being strapped in a metal tube travelling 900km/hr at 36,000ft is not the time I would want to experience sitting above some of these behaving under unusual circumstances. Personal preference.

Joe Black's picture

Soon enough it will be mandatory to strip and change into a hospital robe while flying.

gary rowbury's picture

On a trip to China last year flying home from Beijing on Air China my carry on bag was checked by Security as I boarded the plane. I was carrying four USB battery packs. The agent would not allow the batteries that were over a certain mAh rating, I forget the max capacity. Two were over his limit even though one was a flashlight that had a USB output. I was allowed to keep two that were 2200 mAh which are about the capacity of of an alkaline AA. Be sure to check if that $40 USB battery will be allowed on your next flight. Even if it has no external contacts it may get taken.

Jon Washburn's picture

This is vastly over-stated and several of the points are incorrect.

The only new part of the law is that lithium ion/polymer and lithium metal batteries have to be carried in the checked baggage.

It doesn't apply to either NiMH or NiCad batteries, nor does it apply to any other types (such as alkaline AA or AAAs).

Also, the batteries simply have to be protected from damage or short-circuit - they do not HAVE to be stored in separate containers or have the ends taped, contrary to what this article claims.

The info can be found on the FAA website here: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ash/ash_progra...

The new section can be seen in bold.

Steve Thornton's picture

I think any discussion about how many batteries, flash units/heads etc. is missing the point. How anyone decides to light, direct, pack for etc. is really the important point to them. The ONLY important point is how does the final image look?

I will tell/show anyone how I get from point A to Point B on any of my projects. All of this conversation that you don't need this or why do you need "X" number of batteries only says what is important to YOU. And that is fine, but to question anyone's ability for them to decide what they want to bring to any project is folly.

The take away on this article is traveling by air has changed. So you either get over it or you vent. I travel 175 days a year and I don't want to be in the air and have a fire breakout in the aircraft.

As for me? I have traveled with over 40 batteries, but all of them are inside the little plastic battery holders. They are cheap, keep all of the little round things in one place.

Sometimes, the client will change their mind and want "X". What happens if you do not bring extra "stuff" to do "X"? What will the client think about you as a photographer? OR, a better question, what will the client think if they ask for "X" and you DO have what it takes and get the shot they really want?

I travel heavy. I hate reaching for something I know will fix a problem and realizing I decided to leave it out of my kit.

To me, how we get to the final image is NOT important. Yes the story may be interesting or cool or even excruciating, but it is not important. The image is the only thing that is important.

Steve Thornton
http://www.stevethornton.com