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As Delta Airlines' online check-in helpfully informs me

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Examples of Forbidden Dangerous items include paints, lighter fluid, fireworks, tear gases, oxygen bottles, radiopharmaceuticals, and hoverboards.

Is this a standard text? Does it have some actual precedent, is it a deliberate allusion to the don't stuff beans up your nose trope, or just a flat-out joke? Why don't they give something actually realistic as example for the hazards a hoverboard would bring?

  • 41
    google 'lithium battery fire'. it's not a joke, and all airlines have that rule now. – Aganju Sep 22 '18 at 16:43
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    Hoverboards tend to need especially high-capacity batteries, and they have to be designed to allow high current to flow, since the motor needs a lot of power. So they're more susceptible to catch fire than something like a laptop or phone, and there's a lot more lithium battery to burn if they do. – Nate Eldredge Sep 22 '18 at 17:01
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    Also, there was a particularly notorious epidemic of early-model hoverboards catching fire, which led to knee-jerk regulations targeting hoverboards specifically. – Nate Eldredge Sep 22 '18 at 17:02
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    @NateEldredge Banning specific models would be a nightmare. They'd need to inspect things, need some system for certifying models as safe, run the risk of people putting the stickers of a safe brand on an unsafe hoverboard, ... – David Richerby Sep 22 '18 at 17:38
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    As a reminder, Stack Exchange questions are expected to demonstrate some attempt at initial research, no matter how elementary. – choster Sep 23 '18 at 17:05
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No joke. A hoverboard these days isn't referring to flying skateboards a la Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but what Wikipedia calls self-balancing scooters: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-balancing_scooter

And the equally serious reason airlines don't want these on board is that they're crammed full of lithium batteries, which have a disturbing tendency to combust violently. Bad enough when you're out on the street, but much worse if they're in the hold of a passenger aircraft.

By comparison, the lithium batteries in laptops, cellphones and power packs are smaller and usually brought into the cabin, making dealing with any potential fires somewhat easier.

  • 71
    That's called a hoverboard these days? How boring. – leftaroundabout Sep 22 '18 at 17:28
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    @leftaroundabout at one point there was another thing called hoverboard - it was super-loud, it only worked on copper floors, it couldn't actually lift off the ground (it hovered at a fixed distance), and it had a tendency to start spinning wildly after a while. – John Dvorak Sep 22 '18 at 19:56
  • Here's a good recent article that explains how and why lithium batteries tend to explode on planes (and some research into fixing that problem): New electrolyte recipe keeps lithium-ion batteries from catching fire – Kyralessa Sep 23 '18 at 6:41
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    It's not just that laptop etc batteries are smaller, but the cells inside tend to be made by reputable manufacturers such as Panasonic. Whereas these so-called hoverboards are stuffed with cheap no-name 18650s without adequate safety circuits – Gaius Sep 23 '18 at 15:04
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    re. phones, note that the Galaxy Note 7 was banned from many airlines because of excessively combustible tendencies. – Geoffrey Brent Sep 24 '18 at 5:46
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Is this a standard text?

Absolutely. Every airline I looked at had such a restriction and I think it's more or less mandated by IATA's restrictions on lithium batteries.

Air Canada: "Small lithium battery-powered vehicles are not accepted in either checked baggage or carry-on baggage due to safety concerns associated to the lithium batteries that power them. Prohibited vehicles include: hoverboards, AirBoards, electric skateboards, airwheels, mini-Segways, balance wheels, battery-assisted bikes and electric scooters. Motorized luggage (e.g. Modobag) is also prohibited."

Air France: "Lithium battery-operated segways, hoverboards, self-balancing hoverboards, Oxboards, electric skateboards, waveboards, motorized baggage (no matter the battery power in Wh and even if the battery has been disconnected or removed)" are not allowed in either checked or carry-on baggage.

British Airways: "Due to the potential fire risk associated with lithium batteries, hoverboards and other self-propelled electrically-powered vehicles such as Air Wheels, Solo Wheels, skateboards, scooters and Hover Karts are completely forbidden."

Japan Airlines: "Personal Movement Devices with Built-in Lithium or Lithium Ion Batteries (Except for battery-powered wheelchairs and mobility aids)" are "prohibited in both carry-on and checked baggage even if the batteries are removed, or those devices sold at the airport duty free shops."

United: "In the interest of safety for our customers and employees, we do not accept hoverboards as checked or carry-on baggage."

Does it have some actual precedent, is it a deliberate allusion to the don't stuff beans up your nose trope, or just a flat-out joke?

It has actual precedent. Hoverboards use high-capacity lithium batteries and such batteries are strictly restricted on flights because they can cause very intense fires if they're damaged, overcharged, undercharged or have manufacturing defects.

At least two cargo flights have crashed because of lithium battery fires: UPS flight 6 and Asiana 991.

Why don't they give something actually realistic as example for the hazards a hoverboard would bring?

Delta don't give examples of why anything else would be dangerous, so why single out hoverboards? It's tough enough getting people to read these things anyway but adding a little essay about each individual item will make the text even longer and guarantee that people won't read it.

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    Because in the OP mind, an hoverboard may be a fictional item: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoverboard – Cœur Sep 23 '18 at 10:04
  • @Cœur Sure but that had already been covered in the answer that was posted before mine. – David Richerby Sep 23 '18 at 10:45
  • I was answering your "why single out hoverboards?" – Cœur Sep 23 '18 at 10:47
  • @Cœur Ah. I meant why should Delta single out hoverboards, not the asker. – David Richerby Sep 23 '18 at 10:51
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    @trolley813 Because "disconnected" means the potentially dangerous battery is still there and "removed" means they need to train all their check-in staff to correctly inspect hoverboards to make sure that the battery really has been removed. And that all the batteries have been removed. – David Richerby Sep 24 '18 at 10:56
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Put the devices in a sealed bag full of CO2 or other flame negating gas- end of story. The real issue of collusion against personal mobility devices is the reason why airlines flat out ban self-balancing scooters.

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    I'm not really sure what "collusion" you're describing. Personal mobility devices don't compete with airlines—nobody decides to ride a hoverboard 3,000 miles instead of fly—so there's no reason why airlines would collude against them. Regardless, the bans do not permit devices inside of sealed bags of CO2 (nor is there sufficient evidence that could contain a battery fire), so that would still be prohibited. – Zach Lipton Jul 1 at 8:17
  • Yes. For starters, metal burns can happily continue in a CO₂ atmosphere – at least magnesium, aluminium and sodium, lithium probably as well. If anything, argon would help. But anyways the problem only starts when the batteries overheat (which they can easily do anærobically), and then they could also melt or explode their way through a sealed bag. – leftaroundabout Jul 1 at 8:37
  • @leftaroundabout completely agree. My first thought on reading Mr. Valls' suggestion that a CO₂ atmosphere would prevent any combustion was that his knowledge of industrial chemistry was insufficient. – MadHatter Jul 1 at 8:51

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