Those who received a hoverboard this holiday season had better watch out if they traveled to visit relatives or celebrate elsewhere. As Russell Crowe learned, and erroneously blamed Virgin Australia Airlines for, hoverboards are not allowed on most airplanes having been placed on the “no fly” list for safety sake. There are also shipping restrictions on the devices, so bringing them home must be via the ground not the air.
The Oscar-winning actor was furious, and took to social media to share his anger, with Virgin for not allowing his sons to bring their hoverboards on an airplane on Tuesday, December 29. Crowe, 51, protested that Virgin did not tell him “No Hoverboards Allowed” in carry on or in their checked baggage, but the issues with the two-wheeled devices has received a lot of attention.
Virgin is not to blame. Nearly every major airline in the U.S., Qantas, British Airways and other large carriers worldwide, banned the devices, which are also called Self-Balancing Scooters or Gravity Boards, because of the lithium-ion batteries on the devices and fear they can burst into flames. The cause of the fires is still unknown and the lithium batteries or faulty connections to them are suspected. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is reportedly investigating 16 cases of hoverboard fires across the country.
Many of the board makes do not provide great detail about the size or power of the lithium-ion batteries they use and some of the devices tested are above the 160-watt hour limit the U.S. government (and presumably others) permits on planes.
As Delta Airlines phrased it in their statement announcing their ban Dec. 10, “Poorly labeled, powerful lithium-ion batteries powering hoverboards are the issue. Delta reviewed hoverboard product specifications and found that manufacturers do not consistently provide detail about the size or power of their lithium-ion batteries”
Other businesses took safety precautions in dealing with the devices as well, even though they were highly in demand when the holiday season started. Major retailers, such as Amazon, halted sales or limited shipping destinations of the motorized skateboard-like devices as a safety precaution.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and United Parcel Service (UPS) will only ship motorized hoverboards domestically within the continental U.S. via ground transportation the only option. The USPS already had restrictions on mailing lithium batteries or devices including them before the hoverboards became an issue. UPS will also allow the device to be sent to and from Mexico and Canada by ground. (UPS does have a Hazardous Material Contract they use for shipping such items more broadly, and those with such contracts can still ship them.)
Virgin Australia answered Crowe’s Twitter query by politely pointing out that safety concerns with the batteries led many airlines have banned the boards. As for the actor’s anger over not being told about the ban, the airline responded, “this information is outlined in the Dangerous Goods section in the booking confirmation and check in reminder emails you will have received.” (This is the small print that accompanies tickets that specifies a list of hazardous items not allowed, but is also on airline Websites.)
The actor may have been ballistic and embarrassed at check-in traveling with two children eager to take their prized possessions on vacation. But now, thanks to Russell Crowe, many other parents, college students or adults who like the latest gadgets learned that hoverboards are on the hazardous items “No Fly List”
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Us Magazine: Russell Crowe Lashes Out at Virgin Airlines for Refusing Sons’ Hoverboards on Flight: ‘Never Again’
USA Today: All of the USA’s big airlines now ban hoverboards
UPS: Important Reminder when Shipping Hoverboards
USPS: USPS restricts “Hover Boards” shipping
Delta: Delta bans hoverboards out of safety considerations
Photo courtesy Soar Boards’ Flickr page – Creative Commons license