One of the hottest gifts for this holiday season may be hotter than many consumers expect. Delta Air Lines, United Continental Holdings, American Airlines, British Airways and charter carrier Rectrix Aviation have banned the carriage of popular “hoverboard”motorized skateboard-like scooters after numerous reports that the lithium-ion batteries that power the toys are causing fires.
A widely viewed video shows a hoverboard catching on fire at a Washington state shopping mall. At least one house fire has been attributed to the self–balancing scooters, also called “swegways.”
Additionally, according to Reuters, IATA is warning carriers, airports and passengers to be mindful of regulations covering them, calling for penalties – even prison – for shippers that do not follow the rules. IATA issued a notice to airlines after consulting with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel. Just last month, the ICAO rejected a proposed ban on rechargeable lithium batteries from being carried as belly freight in passenger aircraft.
“Each airline has to make a risk-based analysis to decide if these items are to be transported or not,” said Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA’s senior vice president for safety and flight operations.
Great Britain’s National Trading Standards organization said that 88 percent of 17,000 hoverboards tested at U.K. entry points were found to be unsafe, with an increased risk of overheating, catching fire or exploding.
The topic of lithium batteries on aircraft has been very controversial this year. Fires caused by the batteries are difficult to suppress and have been blamed for several fires on aircraft. At least one fatal fire was caused by rechargeable batteries in 2010, when a UPS 747-400 cargo aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Dubai.