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FAA Issues Terrifying Warning About Checked Bags Containing This Everyday Item

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a strongly worded safety alert warning of “potential risk of a catastrophic aircraft loss.”

It’s not just hoverboards we have to worry about any more. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just released an alarming warning to airlines in the U.S. and abroad, strongly urging them to perform safety risk assessments regarding allowing lithium batteries to be transported as cargo.

The FAA issued a Safety Alert for Operators to warn airlines “of the potential risk for a catastrophic hull loss due to significant identified dangers associated with the transport of lithium batteries as cargo on either passenger or cargo aircraft.”

Why is this such a concern? Just watch this testing video from the FAA, designed to simulate a battery fire in the cargo hold:

(Video: FAA)

A press release from the FAA explains, “FAA battery fire testing has highlighted the potential risk of a catastrophic aircraft loss due to damage resulting from a lithium battery fire or explosion. Current cargo fire suppression systems cannot effectively control a lithium battery fire.”

The batteries in question are the rechargeable, lithium-ion ones that are found in everything from phones to laptops. However, the warning is only for batteries being transported alone (not those that are already installed inside electronics, so you can continue to carry on your phones and laptops without worry).

Currently, FAA guidelines allow flyers to pack these batteries in their carry-ons, as long as they are 160 watt hours or less per battery. (That’s why hoverboards, with their super-powerful batteries designed to last for up to 10 miles, are banned by many airlines.) Backup lithium batteries are not allowed in checked luggage, and many commercial airlines have instituted their own rules against carrying the batteries.

This new warning is intended to “identify and mitigate risks for the airlines that still carry lithium batteries and to help those that don’t carry them from inadvertently accepting them for transport.”

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Caroline Morse is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.