Airlines may ban laptops, other large devices in check-in bags

The laptop ban on flights imposed by the US authorities earlier this year could now be adopted universally, including in India, after a man's mobile phone caught fire on a Delhi-Indore flight last week.

International aviation agencies are contemplating banning large personal electronic devices like laptops from check-in bags amidst fears that their batteries, when left undetected, could cause explosions, undermining the safety of the aircraft and passengers.

Media reports have said that India may also follow suit once a decision is taken by a leading aviation agency.

Meanwhile, a report in the Extremetech said the United Nations agency ICAO is studying a proposal submitted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding this.

According to the paper filed by the FAA, tests have shown that when a laptop's rechargeable lithium-ion battery overheats in close proximity to an aerosol spray can, it can cause an explosion capable of disabling an airliner's fire suppression system, the report said.

"FAA fire safety branch conducted 10 tests utilising a fully charged laptop computer inside a suitcase. A heater was placed against a lithium ion cell in the battery of a laptop to force it into thermal runaway.... it was concluded that if a PED is packed in a suitcase with an aerosol can and a thermal runaway event occurs, there is the potential for an aerosol can explosion.... The fire suppression system of the aircraft is then compromised, which could lead to the loss of the aircraft," the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) stated in the paper.

The fire could then rage unchecked, leading to ''the loss of the aircraft,'' the paper said. Electronic devices in a passenger cabin are relatively safer, as it enables the crew to take immediate action.

European regulators too in the past had warned that hundreds of devices in the hold on long-haul flights could potentially compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries.

Last year, top airlines had globally banned the use of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones during flights following reports of battery explosion.