DOT is determined to keep travel on our nation’s airlines the safest in the world. Today, it is with that thought in mind that the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), issued an interim final rule prohibiting the carriage of battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices (e.g. e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-cigars, e-pipes, personal vaporizers, electronic nicotine delivery systems) in checked baggage.
This rule also prohibits the charging of such devices and their batteries aboard aircraft.
This interim final rule does not prohibit airline passengers from transporting other devices containing batteries for personal use (such as laptop computers, cell phones, cameras, etc.) in checked or carry-on baggage. Nor does it restrict a passenger from transporting batteries for personal use in carry-on baggage.
It is safe for air travelers to fly with the kinds of batteries used in many portable electronic devices, as long as simple precautions are taken to reduce the risk of fires on aircraft.
Today’s interim final rule is in response to recent smoke and fire incidents involving e-cigarettes in passenger baggage and the need to harmonize the Hazardous Materials Regulations with an addendum to the 2015-2016 International Civilian Aviation Organization Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air that became effective on June 9, 2015.
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that simulates tobacco smoking by producing a heated vapor resembling smoke. On August 9, 2014, at Boston’s Logan Airport, an e-cigarette in a passenger’s checked bag in the cargo hold of a passenger aircraft caused a fire that forced an evacuation of the aircraft. On January 4, 2015, at Los Angeles International Airport, a checked bag was found to be on fire in a baggage area. Emergency responders attributed the fire to an overheated e-cigarette.
These incidents -and several others occurring outside of air transportation- have shown that e-cigarettes can overheat and cause fires when the heating element is accidentally activated or left on.
Previously, PHMSA worked with FAA on a January 22, 2015, Safety Alert for Operators highlighting current provisions of the Hazardous Materials Regulations, which state “transportation of battery-powered devices that are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous evolution of heat is prohibited unless they are packaged in such a manner to preclude such an occurrence.” That alert further recommended that air operators notify passengers to only carry these devices in carry-on baggage.