As the popularity of e-cigarettes increases, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants airlines to ensure passengers don’t put their e-cigarettes in checked baggage, when they can pose a fire hazard in the cargo compartment.
The FAA released a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) making U.S. air carriers aware of a recent bulletin from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that described several incidents associated with e-cigarettes, as well as ICAO’s recommendation to ban the devices in checked baggage. ICAO is the arm of the United Nations that develops and disseminates suggested standards for the international aviation community.
Aircraft evacuated due to fire
In several incidents both inside and outside the transportation industry, e-cigarettes have overheated or caught fire when the heating element was accidentally activated. Last August, an e-cigarette in checked baggage stowed in an airliner’s cargo hold caused a fire that forced an evacuation of the aircraft. The danger may be increased when users modify and rebuild their reusable e-cigarette devices and interchange original and aftermarket batteries, heating elements, and vaporizing components.
The FAA SAFO recommends that operators follow the ICAO bulletin and require passengers to carry e-cigarettes and related devices solely in the aircraft cabin, where overheating or fire can be observed and handled more quickly. The agency encourages airlines to communicate this new policy to passengers as widely as possible through their websites, press releases, at ticket purchase, during the check-in process and by other established means to inform passengers about hazardous materials regulations and policies.