2016 revised IATA Guidelines on air transport of Lithium-ion batteries

The rules have on air travel with Lithium-ion batteries have become much more restrictive over the past few years and you have to be aware of recent stricter limitations for transporting Lithium-ion batteries.

This article has been completely updated with the guidance of IATA in July 2016 to help make you aware of these new rules.

IATA Guidelines and FAQs on carrying batteries on aeroplanes Batteries Carried by Airline Passengers has been updated with the 2016 guidelines IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations Addendum II.

Lithium batteries have become the preferred energy source to power a wide variety of consumer goods ranging from mobile phones to children toys to e-bikes and passenger vehicles and though widely used, most people are not aware that lithium batteries are dangerous goods and can pose a safety risk if not prepared in accordance with the transport regulations.

The fire hazard risk of Lithium batteries is such that regulatory change has had far reaching consequences into air travel of equipment containing Lithium-ion batteries.

To help with their compliance requirements, IATA has developed guidance information for shippers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airlines and passengers which was updated in 2016. ​​

To summarise this document.

  • Lithium-ion cells and batteries sent as cargo are forbidden on passenger aircraft, as of 1 April 2016
  • Lithium-ion cells and batteries must be offered for transport as a state of charge (SoC) not exceeding 30% of their rated capacity.
  • Spare Lithium-ion batteries not exceeding 100Wh are permitted in carry-on luggage.
    • This includes Anton Bauer Dionic HD (91WH), Hawkwoods Mini V-Lok 98WH and Hawkwoods BPU 60 (60WH) batteries
    • Theoretically, this means an UNLIMITED number of these batteries, but individual airlines often have their own interpretation to these regulations, so our advice is not to rely on it.
  • A maximum of 2 x spare Lithium-ion battery exceeding 100Wh but not exceeding 160Wh are permitted in carry-on luggage allowance per passenger with the approval of the carrying airline.
  • It is permitted to attach a 90Wh battery to a camera as part of your carry-on luggage.
  • If your crew is travelling as a group, then you can share your Lithium-ion allowance between the travelling crew to ensure the maximum Lithium-battery allowance within the limits mentioned above.
  • You must check the allowance for your airline prior to travelling, in case they have specific guidelines of their own.

There are various classification of lithium-based batteries for transportation purposes into non-rechargeable lithium-metal batteries and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries found in mobile phones, laptops and of course in TV Production equipment. 

Airlines have previously allowed both types as carry-on or checked luggage but recent changes now mean that it is expressly FORBIDDEN to check-in luggage containing Lithium-ion batteries.

Barry Bassett

Li-ion Batteries installed or carried as spare packs are permitted for carry-on providing they don’t exceed the following limitation of lithium or equivalent content of:

  • 2 grams for primary lithium batteries, also known as lithium-metal.  
  • 100Wh for a secondary lithium-ion, so an Anton Bauer Dionic 90HC, with 90Wh, would be permissable as a battery but no higher capacity batteries than 160Wh would be permitted for air travel.
  • The limit of 2 batteries relates to lithium metal exceeding 2g but not exceeding 8g and lithium ion with a Wh rating exceeding 100Wh but not exceeding 160Wh, such as Anton Bauer Dionic 150XT or Hawkwoods Mini V-Lok MVL 150. There is no limit below 2g/100Wh (A reasonable number of spares but you are limited to the size of the carry on bag).
  • It is permitted to attach a suitable battery (<100Wh) to a portable device (i.e. camera with battery affixed) as part of your carry-on luggage, subject to size/weight restrictions of carry-on luggage.
  • Thus the new guidelines limit these batteries to only 2 batteries where the capacity is between these limits.

The lithium content of the lithium-metal battery is often printed on the label. Li-ion, on the other hand, has no metallic lithium and uses the equivalent lithium content (ELC) instead.

The Watt hour (Wh) rating should be marked on the battery and all regular CE-approved video batteries have these clearly marked.

Airline Recommendations and VMEDIA Interpretation

IATA Regulations therefore impose a limit for carry-on luggage a maximum of 2 x Lithium-ion batteries exceeding 100Wh and less than 160Wh in capacity.  

Because the Dionic 90 HC battery (91Wh) and Hawkwoods Mini V-Lok (98WH) batteries are actually less capacity than the 100Wh minimum, the regulations do not explicitly limit the number of batteries which are permitted per person as carry-on luggage allowance.  However, the airline use these guidelines to impose their own limit which may limit the number of batteries permitted per person for carry-on luggage.  As such, it may be safe to assume that airlines are likely to err on the side of caution, so you may take the view to treat these batteries as if they had a value of 100Wh.  It makes sense to thoroughly check first with the airline what their imposed limits are.
However, be aware that  Anton Bauer Dionic 150XT and Hawkwoods Mini V-Lok MVL 150 can only be carried with a maximum quantity of 2 as carry-on plus a 3rd connected to a camera per person.  This is because each battery has a capacity higher than 100WH but less than 160WH. 

When researching this article, IATA advised that some countries have more stringent standards than others (for example the Far East has stricter standards than Europe), so if you are travelling world-wide, then check each region separately for specific standards imposed. 

In English, this means theoretically, you have no limit to the quantity of sub 100WH batteries that you can carry as carry-on luggage, such as Fionic 90HC or Mini Hawkwoods MVL98 batteries.

However, a maximum of 2 x Anton Bauer Dionic 150XT or Mini V-lok MVL150, each with 150Wh Lithium-ion capacity per person plus a 3rd affixed to a camera.  

So, if you have a crew of 3, then you can share your Lithium-ion allowance between you and carry 2 x 150Wh batteries each, or 6 batteries as a crew or a theoretical unlimited quantity of 90WH or 98WH flightsafe batteries as carry on only.

Barry Bassett

The regulations also state that spare batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuits by placement in the original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g. by taping over exposed terminals or each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch.  As already mentioned, the state of charge must be as a state of charge (SoC) not exceeding 30% of their rated capacity when sent as cargo (this does not apply when carried as a passenger).

Whilst these are the IATA rules, individual airlines may interpret these differently and impose their own standards and limits on passengers, so you are strongly advised to check their policy on Lithium-ion transportation ahead of travelling.

Barry Bassett

VMEDIA is making your life easy.

We like to make things easy for our clients, since we know that being prevented from taking your power on the plane with you by a customs or airport official not familiar with all of the IATA rules is likely to have a devastating effect on your production.

Since the revised guidelines are now clear and well understood, Hawkwoods has taken to printing the words “Flight-Safe” onto their 98WH Mini V-Lok batteries and also including a printed QR code, so that customs officials are able to scan the code and confirm that these batteries are safe to be taken as carry-on with you in an unlimited number. 

We have taken this a stage further and included laminated cards shown here to accompany our flight-safe Mini V-Lok battery kits, so that you can provide evidence to authorities that these batteries qualify to be carried-on and the QR code points to a specific website to add credibility. 

As per the caveat above, individual airlines may still interpret IATA rules differently and impose their own standards and limits on passengers, so you are strongly advised to check their policy on Lithium-ion transportation ahead of travelling, though our hope is that our laminated cards may help you if you face an impasse with an official trying to play it safe!

Freighting Lithium-ion batteries via freight service

It is possible to send Lithium-ion batteries via cargo services but these are prohibited from travelling in a passenger aircraft.

There is stringent legislation about packaging, labelling and documentation but to ship Lithium-ion batteries by air, you will require training from a Civil Aviation Authority approved training provider.

Another solution is to arrange for a 3rd party or freight forwarder to provide this service on an ad-hoc basis for you.  Examples include Dynamic Freight, DHL, UPS, Fedex.  

Shipping Lithium-ion batteries in bulk

Film crews often carry larger batteries for professional cameras, and these are handled as Class 9 hazardous material and a specialised international shipper may be approached to transport these by air.  The advice must be that before you plan to ship any Lithium-ion batteries in bulk, always seek the advice of a specialise freight forwarder.

It is worth mentioning that there are no limits to Lithium-ion battery transportation by road.

Barry Bassett

Specific VMEDIA Information

Be aware that our regular Hawkwoods Mini V-Lok batteries are 98WH, so there are limitations for check in due to Lithium content.  This means that whilst our Anton Bauer 5 way Dionic HC battery kits are not possible for checked-in stowage but our Anton Bauer 2-way Dionic HC Battery kits are permitted subject to IATA travel regulations.

The regulations clearly state that there is no maximum of Dionic HC 91Wh and hawkwoods Mini VLok batteries that can be taken with you as Passenger carry-on, though be aware that differing airlines may interpret the regulations differently and subject to IATA travel regulations.

Only 2 each of Anton Bauer Dionic 150XT and Hawkwoods Mini V-Lok MVL 150 can be carried as carry-on plus a 3rd connected to a camera per person.  This is because each battery has a capacity higher than 100WH but less than 160WH. 

Also our Anton Bauer VCLX 540Wh 14/28V Cine Batteries are not lithium, so these are not subject to any limitation of air carriage, though they are extremely heavy and the cost of air transit may make transportation uneconomic.

The Hawkwoods 98WH MiniV-Lok power kits are not only sub 100WH but also have a reduced lithium content and so are labelled as ‘flight safe’.  They have a barcode on them so that airline security can scan this to assess the lithium content to be safe for ffreight but I wouldn’t rely on this!  As with the Dionic batteries, there are theoretically no limit of hawkwoods Mini VLok batteries that can be taken with you as Passenger carry-on, though be aware that differing airlines may interpret the regulations differently and subject to IATA travel regulations.

The Lightweight BPU-60 double power kit is another travel-friendly battery kit.  Only having 2 batteries, one person is permitted to carry a set alone and this offers typically better power capacity than a regular FS-7 or equivalent battery and has the benefit of providing 2 x D-tap power outputs too.  The lower Wh rating may mean that airlines have greater tolerance to these, since being less than 100Wh, there ought to be no limits of quantities of these batteries carried as hand-luggage, subject to IATA travel regulations 

Information from Anton Bauer and FAA Websites about travelling and shipping batteries

FAA – Batteries Carried by Airline Passengers (PDF)

FAA – Safety Alert for Operators (PDF)

IATA – Passenger Dangerous Goods Corner

IATA – Lithium Batteries

IATA – Lithium Batteries as Cargo in 2016 (PDF)

For information on transportation of Anton/Bauer batteries, please CLICK HERE.

This document is accurate to the best of our knowledge and written with guidance from IATA but we cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or differing limitations or rules not mentioned.  

Barry Bassett
VMI, July 2016

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