The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) regarding the fire risk of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs) in checked baggage.
This communication (SAFO 15003, January 22, 2015) comes after at least two reported incidents involving e-cig fires:
- August 9, 2014, at Logan International Airport (BOS), in which an e-cigarette packed in a passenger’s checked baggage of a JetBlue Embraer 190 aircraft was determined to be the cause of a fire that forced an evacuation of the aircraft.
- January 4, 2015, at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), in which a checked bag that had missed its flight was found to be on fire in a baggage area. Emergency responders attributed the fire to an overheated e-cigarette inside the bag.
The safety alert confirms that U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations do not explicitly prohibit e-cigarettes in checked and carry-on baggage, however:
the transportation of battery-powered devices that are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous evolution of heat is prohibited unless they are packaged in such a manner to preclude such an occurrence. Carriage of e-cigarettes in the passenger cabin addresses this safety risk by ensuring that if an incident does occur, it can be immediately identified and mitigated.
If the passenger does not properly pack the battery operated device, it is considered an illegal transportation, as the transportation of “electrical devices, such as batteries and battery-powered devices, which are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous evolution of heat, unless packaged in a manner which precludes such an occurrence,” are forbidden. 49 CFR 173.21(c).
Therefore, it is recommended to U.S. airlines that passengers be required to carry e-cigarettes and related devices solely in the aircraft cabin for fire safety reasons.
Operators are encouraged to communicate their e-cigarette policy to passengers as widely as possible to include their website, press releases, ticket purchase, the check-in process (on-line, kiosks, check-in agents, etc.), and through any other means already established to inform passengers of hazardous materials regulations and related company policies.
As for smoking (i.e. vaping) an e-cigarette during a flight, the current state of the law interprets it as illegal, and likely banned by the airline itself regardless. See GUIDE: Are You Allowed To Smoke E-Cigarettes On A Plane?
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