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Safety survey shows gap in understanding of portable electronic device baggage rules

written by Jordan Chong | December 27, 2018

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says passengers are largely unaware of the rules regarding the carriage of portable electronic devices.

That is the conclusion of an IATA survey of passengers in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and United States conducted during 2018.

The questions passengers were asked included if they were aware of the regulations for the safe carriage ofportable electronic devices – PEDs – such as power banks, electronic cigarettes or laptops.

While the majority of respondents felt they were well-informed about the rules covering these items, some 36 per cent of those surveyed admitted they had packed spare batteries and power banks in their check-in luggage.

Further, the survey found the average number of devices carried by each passenger was two. And business travellers packed more power banks and spare batteries in checked baggage than leisure travellers.

About one-third of travellers said they relied on the check-in process for information on restrictions before deciding where to store their PEDs.

IATA senior vice president for safety and flight operations Gilberto Lopez Meyer said passengers were either unaware or unbothered by the regulations on portable electronic devices.


“They are less informed than they think or are they intentionally ignoring the rules,” Lopez Meyer told reporters at the IATA Global Media Day briefings in Geneva in December.

“One thing was certain. That is, we need to raise awareness directly to the travelling public about this topic.

“If we assume that this is a representative sample, there may be a very, very large number of power banks in checked luggage at any one time.”

Currently, passengers are not allowed to carry portable power banks, electronic cigarettes or spare batteries of any type in their hold luggage. Instead, they must be taken onto the aircraft with carry-on baggage.

Meanwhile, PEDs that are allowed to be packed in check-in luggage have to be completely switched off.

“This is also very important as hibernation, or the sleep mode, could mean that the devices are drawing power and could be more prone to a potential failure,” Lopez Meyer said.

The rules are designed to ensure that in the unlikely event a battery catches fire during a flight it can be put out by the cabin crew, rather than be left unattended in the cargo hold.

Airlines around the world have also updated their safety announcements asking passengers not to adjust their seat should they drop their phone into the seat. Instead they are asked to alert a cabin crew member.

There have been a number of incidents around the world where a crushed mobile phone has started smoking after being crushed by a seat being moved.

One such occurrence took place in 2016 when a mobile phone started emitting smoke when trapped under a business class seat on board at Qantas Airbus A380 from Sydney to Dallas/Fort Worth.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report on the incident said the crushed phone was found wedged tightly in the mechanism under seat 19F.

The mobile phone, which was badly burnt, was placed in a jug of water and then put in a metal box and monitored for the rest of the flight.

On December 23 2018, a power bank caught on fire in an overhead locker on board a China Southern Airbus A321 flying from Penang in Malaysia to Guangzhou in China.

The cabin crew deployed two fire extinguishers to put out the fire and the aircraft returned safely to Penang.

IATA recently launched a global campaign to raise awareness of the rules including an infographic available in eight languages and a video available through social media.


“We realised that there is a need to help airlines communicate the right and wrong way to pack PEDs before they arrive at the airport,” Lopez Meyer said.

“We wanted the message to be easily understood without causing fear but to communicate the what to pack and where.”


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