Airline passengers are being urged to ensure any Christmas gifts containing lithium batteries are carried in hand luggage rather than the hold of aircraft.
This is because poorly manufactured batteries, or those that are damaged or inappropriately packaged, can short circuit or fail, releasing harmful gasses or causing high intensity fires that can spread quickly, the UK pilots union warned.
Poorly packed parcels of cameras, laptops, phones and toys containing lithium batteries, could pose a fire risk, according to the British Airline Pilots’ Association.
Lithium batteries have been cited in the accident reports of at least two fatal accidents, including a UPS Boeing 747 freighter in 2010 and an Asiana 747 in 2011.
Balpa is backing the official ICAO advice that these devices should be kept in the cabin and not in the hold so that potential fires can be spotted and extinguished quickly and efficiently.
The association also called for a system where passenger hand baggage can be identified as containing lithium batteries, whether that means marking boarding cards, or attaching ‘cabin baggage only’ labels.
Balpa flight safety specialist Stephen Landells said: “We understand that at Christmas passengers may be carrying presents for their loved ones.
“We want to ensure those gifts are delivered safely. That means if they contain items such as phones, toys or computers that have lithium batteries then passengers need to be cautious about how they transport them.
“The safest way to carry them is in your hand luggage, where any potential fault will be detected by the crew quickly and dealt with before a serious problem occurs.
“Pilots don’t want to be Grinches, but we do want to help educate passengers, so they understand that a little thought about how they pack their bag can make a big difference to flight safety.”
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