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. 


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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Previous comments
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?

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

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 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 well as potentially fatal.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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:

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