Airlines may consider banning laptops in checked baggage for fear of fires
Laptops are the latest consumer gadgets at risk of further restrictions if carrying onto commercial airplanes. Traditionally, the FAA allows battery sizes of up to 100 Wh and so even the largest consumer laptops are equipped with only double-digit Wh batteries. Now, after further tests and studies by the FAA, the government agency is pushing for laws that could disallow laptops in checked luggage without prior approval by the international airline.
The news comes after it was discovered that laptop batteries can be forced into what the FAA calls "thermal runaway" in suitcases or backpacks. A tampered battery could be made to continually rise in temperature and burst nearby aerosol cans or tight containers of specific materials to cause immediate fire. As reported by The Chicago Tribune, a fire created in this manner could trigger an explosion that may "damage the cargo compartment and allow the Halon to escape". The loss of Halon would mean the loss of an airplane's ability to put out onboard fires.
The source does not specify whether or not the restrictions would also apply to tablets or detachables as such devices are normally equipped with smaller batteries than their laptop counterparts. Nonetheless, the FAA's new suggestions are purportedly already under consideration from aircraft makers like Airbus. Should the restrictions pass, then passengers will likely have to report their laptops to the airline directly before being allowed to board.