The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that airline passengers in the U.S. will no longer be permitted to pack lithium batteries in their checked baggage.
The ban follows an incident on Monday when an Alaska Air flight from Newark to Seattle had to make an unscheduled stop in Buffalo, New York. The crew had to use a fire extinguisher to douse a flight attendant’s credit card machine which had begun to overheat and smoke because of a "melting" lithium ion battery.
A statement released by the Administration says the ban covers "spare lithium metal and spare rechargeable lithium ion batteries for personal electronics such as cameras, cell phones, laptop computers, tablets, watches, calculators, etc".
"Spare (uninstalled) lithium ion and lithium metal batteries must be carried in carry-on baggage only. When a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or at planeside, all spare lithium batteries must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin. The battery terminals must be protected from short circuit." says the statement.
The ban is an extension of a previous FAA ban on the shipping of lithium batteries as freight on passenger aircraft, due to an "immediate and urgent" risk of overheating batteries causing fire or explosion.
If a battery develops a short circuit, the FAA explained, the buildup of hydrogen and other gases as surrounding batteries are also heated can defeat a plane's halon fire suppression system.
Air France, British Airways, Delta, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines had already placed a voluntary ban on lithium battery cargo on their passenger flights when Boeing "warned operators of its aircraft not to carry bulk shipments of batteries until logistics companies design better transport packaging and shipping procedures".
Last week the British Airline Pilots Association called for all passengers' battery powered gadgets to be carried as cabin luggage.