Last updated: 12:13 PM ET, Tue March 03 2015

United Joins Delta in Banning Bulk Shipments of Rechargeable Batteries

Airlines & Airports | United Airlines | Rich Thomaselli | March 03, 2015

United Joins Delta in Banning Bulk Shipments of Rechargeable Batteries

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You’d be surprised at what gets transported on commercial airline flights besides you and your luggage. The cargo hold of an airplane is quite large and even the U.S. Postal Service, among other companies, transports packages and shipments on commercial flights.

Now domestic airlines are growing concerned about the hazardous potential of one item in particular – lithium-ion batteries.

United Airlines on Monday decided to ban the bulk shipment of these rechargeable batteries on its passenger flights, becoming the second airline in a month to enact the practice. Delta, as of Feb. 1, no longer accepts bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries.

According to the Associated Press, Federal Aviation Administration tests have shown that when one battery overheats it can result in a chain reaction, causing other batteries to short-circuit and overheat. “As they overheat, the batteries emit explosive gases that build up inside the cargo container,” the AP wrote. “Several tests have resulted in fierce explosions that have blown the doors off containers, followed by violent fires.”

"Our primary concerns when transporting dangerous goods are the safety of our customers, our customers' shipments and the environment," United said in a statement.

Lithium-ion batteries can be found in the simplest of items – a rechargeable drill or screwdriver for instance – and in the smallest of forms, like your smartphone battery. Lithiuum-ion batteries are also used in laptop computers.

The FAA has not banned the use of those batteries in cell phones or laptops.

But according to the Associated Press, tests conducted last month confirmed previous test results that overheated batteries consistently emit gases that cause explosions.

An FAA official told the AP: "Everything we find out makes it look worse and worse. We've been very lucky so far, but at some point that is going to end and it's going to be very difficult (to explain) because everyone knows" how dangerous the shipments are.

For more information on United Airlines, Delta Air Lines

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