You might soon no longer be able to check your laptop on an international flight. According to the Associated Press, the United Nations will consider a proposal prohibiting large personal electronic devices in checked luggage — brought forth by the Federal Aviation Administration — in the coming week. Various industry trade associations as well as Airbus, the world's largest airline maker, backed the recommendation.
The agency is concerned that the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in laptops and other electronic devices could cause an explosion when it interacts with a can containing aerosol, like hairspray or dry shampoo.
The FAA has run tests that found when electronic devices overheat, they can combust when packed with aerosol. In one test, a fire started almost immediately and there was an explosion within 40 seconds. A blast like this could potentially cause harm for the entire aircraft because the fire could spread.
The agency also tested laptop batteries with other consumer goods that are permitted in checked luggage, like nail-polish remover, hand sanitizer, and rubbing alcohol. These tests also caused large fires, although no explosions happened. You can find more details on these tests in this paper, published last month, which the FAA filed with the U.N.
According to the AP, three cargo jets have been destroyed and four pilots killed since 2006 in fires that were related to battery explosions.
The U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization's Dangerous Goods Panel is slated to discuss the ban this and next week.