US bans cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger planes

Cargo flights will also have to carry mostly-drained batteries.

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AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

The US government just added a new wrinkle to receiving lithium-ion batteries. The Department of Transportation and the FAA have issued an interim rule banning the transport of lithium-ion batteries and cells as cargo aboard passenger flights. It also demands that batteries aboard cargo aircraft carry no more than a 30 percent charge. You can still carry devices (including spare batteries) on your trips in most cases, but companies can't just stuff a passel of battery packs into an airliner's hold.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao described this as a "safety" measure that addressed the "unique challenges" of carrying lithium-ion batteries. The FAA has been pushing airlines to reconsider carrying batteries due to the potential fire risk, and the ban theoretically reduces the chances that an incident will put travelers in danger.

The cargo ban will mainly affect people who order batteries. You'll likely still get your orders, but they may have to wait for dedicated cargo flights. The battery charge requirement may be another matter. It could mark an end to the days of receiving phones and other gadgets with near-full charges -- you'll probably need to top them up first.

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