Call to ban power banks on flight

|     Azlan Othman     |

NETIZENS were up in the arms over the attitude of some travellers who seem to show a flagrant disregard for safety when travelling on planes, especially with regard to the use of power banks in-flight.

Their ire was stirred after seeing a video showing a power bank exploding midflight on a Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) flight BI636 en route from Hong Kong to Bandar Seri Begawan recently.

“The airline should ban power banks on flight,” exhorted Ramzi, one of the commenters. “You will not die if your handphone battery goes weak. Travellers never learn.”

Another online observer, Zarif, said that the problem mostly arises from those cheap and poor-quality power banks with very little quality control, or those that are damaged or come with bad designs.

He said, “It’s just not worth sacrificing safety just to save money. Most airlines follow the restrictions set by the US for spare batteries such as power banks. The restrictions as per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are for lithium-ion batteries rated above 100 watt hours (Wh) per battery.”

Man Chee Wah took a serious view on the matter.

“Airlines should start looking into this safety aspect. I saw a passenger sitting near me who had his power bank connected to his mobile phone all through the flight, which took just a few hours,” he said.

“Airlines should treat power banks like prohibited weapons that passengers must check in separately, and only return to them after the flight has landed.”

Roy Sharma said he wondered what is so difficult about keeping the power bank switched off during the flight, especially when some flights have a phone-charging facility in the seats.

Abdul Malik Muhammad added that there are numerous warnings about using cell phones and power banks during flights. “It’s common sense that lithium ion batteries are dangerous and must be used with care,” he said.

News about the power bank explosion went viral when Francis Ngu Hown Hua shared videos and pictures of the incident on Facebook.

Power banks are not allowed to be kept in checked-in luggage and must be hand-carried onto the flight or in the passenger’s carry-on bag. Some airlines may limit the type of power banks travellers can carry onboard depending on their battery capacity.

There are even airlines that prohibit charging phones with power banks during flights.

When charging phones, it is recommended that only original power banks, chargers and cables from reputable brands are used.

Cheap power banks may lack built-in safety features that prevent overcharging and overheating.

All passengers and crew of RB flight BI636 were unharmed, and the aircraft landed at its destination safely and as scheduled, the national carrier confirmed in a statement.

“Our cabin crew are trained to follow standard operating procedures to handle such incidents professionally and to ensure the safety of our guests at all times.

“We carry the recommended safety equipment on board at all times,” it said.

The airline additionally highlighted the paramount priority which it takes for the safety of its guests, and reminded them to observe the Guide to Dangerous Goods for checked-in or carry-on luggage in accordance with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations at for the safety and security of all onboard RB flights.