As if travelling with extra luggage in order to take your photography/videography equipment abroad for a wedding or fancy beach shoot wasn't difficult enough, it's always important to remember to be extra careful when travelling with your lithium ion batteries! The last thing you want is to be stuck at security or having your equipment confiscated. Here are the guidelines for travelling with li-ion batteries and some tips on making sure you get to your destination stress-free.
Part 1: The CAA & it's Guidelines
The Civil Aviation Authority, also known as the CAA, are "responsible for the regulation of aviation safety in the UK" according to the gov.uk website, and provide guidance for safe flying on their website. They help give guidance on items such as aerosols, alcohol, medical equipment, and also batteries being taken on airplanes in the UK.
Here are their guidelines for travelling with spare/removeable lithium ion batteries:
Must be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits (by placement in original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g. by taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch).
Batteries and cells must be of a type which meets the requirements of each test in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, Part III, subsection 38.3. It may be necessary to contact the manufacturer to confirm that they have complied with the requirements."
Batteries of this kind may be carried on one's person, or in carry-on baggage without airline approval, but must not be stored in luggage that will be stored in the hold of the plane for the flight.
So, it completely depends on which batteries you're hoping to take with you. A simple CITI300 Pro battery, at 37.44 Wh, should be fine to take without approval, as would a CITI600 Pro battery at 74.88 Wh, but the big V-Lock Battery at 130Wh would not.
Luckily, if you did want to take a V-Lock Battery at 130Wh, all you would then need to do is contact the airline you will be flying with well in advance of your flight to secure proper approval for the battery, provided the batteries you are taking are under 160Wh. However, it must be noted that "No more than two individually protected spare batteries per person may be carried."
Part 2: Why can't lithium ion batteries go in the hold?
Quite simply lithium ion batteries are, for lack of a better word, volatile and can very easily catch fire or explode. Ever seen a photo of an expanded phone battery? All it might take is to take a nasty knock in a suitcase when being loaded and you have a very dangerous fire on your hands. If a battery starts to react when in the cabin, airline staff have procedure and equipment in place to stop this fire to avoid damage or putting flyers at risk. If the fire starts in the hold, which is inaccessible during the flight, the fire will simply become uncontrollable.
Part 3: Tips for flying with batteries:
Beyond following the guidelines, there are also some tips you can follow to make your life a little easier.
- Don't forget to tape up the metal contacts before you fly! This stops them shorting in your bag. Use a tape that won't leave residue, such as masking tape.
- Don't fly if your batteries are damaged at all. It's not worth the risk.
- Speak to airline staff if you have any concerns about the batteries you're carrying.
- Make sure your carry-on bag doesn't exceed weight limits with batteries included.
- Label your batteries before travelling to make this clearer for both yourself and security staff.
- Check the guidelines for the country you're flying to depending on how much equipment you have with you.
- If bringing a separate bag for your equipment, consider picking up a hard carry case with padded inner sections for protection and to make it easier to find specific equipment.
So what do you need to remember?
- Check battery power against national and international guidelines
- Check the batteries for damage before travelling
- Make sure NO batteries are stored in your hold luggage
- Even if you're just not sure, it's always good to contact your airline before flying for some advice on flying with large amounts of powerful batteries in order to make your travel as safe as possible!