Transporting spare batteries on a flight. Also, EU mobile-phone-service providers' roaming rates capped.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the July 2012 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 437th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine. Tell your overseas friends that ITN now posts content of current issues online, so they can avoid the costly postage and pay no more for their subscriptions than people living in the US.

Among the items I’m relating this month, this first one was particularly interesting to research.

A glimpse of Delhi’s Red Fort. Photo by Elizabeth Habian, ITN

Steve Jeffries of Centennial, Colorado, wrote, “My wife and I were preparing to board an Air India flight from Delhi, India, to New York City on Dec. 20, 2011. We had already passed through two security screenings when we encountered a third immediately in front of our departure gate.

“I had eight new AA lithium batteries in their original packaging in my carry-on luggage. The batteries were confiscated.

“I thought this confiscation was contrary to uniform regulations throughout the aviation industry for the transport of lithium batteries.”

Steve’s letter provides an opportunity for me to clarify a few things.

• At this point, in regard to passengers and cargo, there is no internationally accepted body or set of rules governing airport and airline security. Each nation decides exactly what it will and will not allow to pass through security checkpoints.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a voluntary membership of 240 airlines, maintains a list of recommended guidelines on what is safe for airliners to carry in the passenger and cargo areas, but no country has to follow those guidelines. Many countries do find it convenient to model their airline regulations on those of the United States and the European Union.

• Our looking into the issues Steve raised prompted a coincidental discovery.

In January 2012 we checked Air India’s website for the lists of items that are allowed or prohibited in carry-on luggage and found this statement: “For security reasons, battery cells are not allowed on one’s person or as part of the Cabin Baggage, even if they constitute a part of electrical/electronic equipment carried as hand baggage, except in small cameras.”

However, when we checked a month later, Air India’s rules had eased slightly. The website stated, “Battery cells in any electrical/electronic items are permissible now & will now not be removed at the security point. Loose battery cells/dry cells carried in the hand baggage are liable to be removed… Please carry (them) in the checked baggage.”

It seems that spare batteries are still being confiscated from carry-ons at security checkpoints in India, but those that are installed in electronic gear (and not just in small cameras) now are allowed on board.

Note, however, that Air India’s recommendation to pack spare batteries in checked luggage seems contrary to that of most other carriers, at least in regard to spare lithium batteries. I’ll explain.

• Incidents of lithium batteries having started small fires in airliner cargo holds have been reported since the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until Jan. 1, 2008, that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) banned spare lithium batteries, even those in their original sealed packaging, from checked luggage. Almost every airline worldwide currently follows this rule.

The smaller-size lithium batteries commonly used in cameras, cell phones and other consumer electronic gear ARE considered safe while installed in such devices (so long as the devices inside luggage are turned off).

And most countries will allow people to go through security checkpoints carrying spares of the smaller lithium batteries as well as dry-cell alkaline batteries and various rechargeable batteries. In fact, there is rarely a limit on how many of those types of batteries you can have in your carry-on bag.

In general, it is recommended that the terminals on any spare batteries be covered in such a way as to prevent them from coming into contact with each other or any piece of metal; such contact can cause a closed circuit, leading to overheating and worse. Batteries are considered protected while in their original packaging, or tape can be placed over the terminals of loose batteries.

Larger lithium batteries (like those in videocameras, some powerful laptops and other heavy-power users) are problematic. They are considered more of a risk for fires because the power levels and amounts of material are greater. Therefore, many of those are banned or there is a limit of one or two spares per passenger (and in carry-ons only).

Wheelchairs using larger batteries have special regulations as well.

To sum up, with most airlines, all of the batteries that are allowed in carry-on baggage can also be placed in checked bags except for spare lithium batteries that are not installed in devices.

Remember, too, at any airport at any moment, any security officer always has the authority to decide for himself or herself what might constitute a danger and to prohibit a particular item from traveling in either checked or carry-on luggage.

While a security agent’s decision might not be fair or even seem sensible, it doesn’t pay to argue. If an actual crime is being committed against you by an agent (such as the outright theft of goods or an abuse of your person), you can lodge a complaint with local authorities, but it is best to have witnesses and, as much as possible, document what occurred.

For more info on the DOT and TSA regulations regarding transporting batteries on planes, visit

• By the way, since Air India prohibits loose batteries in carry-ons and recommends they be packed in checked luggage, I wondered if they also allowed spare lithium batteries in checked bags, because what are you going to do with them, otherwise? (Tossing them away could be expensive.) I’ve spent two months writing to representatives of Air India and India’s Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, and no one has come up with an answer.

One rep referred me to the website My reply to him was, “We have read every webpage of that website. The one webpage that should have the answers is titled “Permitted + Prohibited Items,” and it displays the message “File Is Under Construction.” An e-mail to the website’s Content Manager brought no response.

So, once again, I’m turning to ITN subscribers to discover what’s actually going on out there.

After you next board a flight within or from India, or if you recently did so, tell us what regulations you were made aware of in regard to packing spare batteries in your checked luggage — and whether or not the rules were different for lithium batteries.

Were rules posted? Did you ask an authority what the rules are? Were any batteries confiscated from your checked bag? Also, did you have any problems having batteries in electronic devices in your carry-on? Let us know the flight date, the airport and the airline plus how many batteries of what type you packed.

(I’m interested only in what the official rules are at any airport security point in India on a given date. I want NO reports on how batteries slipped through security undetected.)

Write to Batteries on Flights in India, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail

As of July 1, mobile-phone-service providers based in the European Union have caps on how much they can charge for their roaming services. “Roaming” charges are the higher rates that many service providers charge customers to use mobile phone networks outside of their home countries or local service areas.

The phone companies say they charge high roaming rates because they must pay high rates for using other operators’ networks. Therefore, the EU has also ruled that the amounts one service provider can charge another service provider to use its network will now be regulated.

When traveling outside of his home country, anyone using an EU-based service provider now will pay roaming charges of no more than €0.29 per minute to make a call, €0.08 per minute to receive a call, €0.09 to send a text message and €0.70 per megabyte (MB) when downloading data or browsing the Internet.

The price caps will progressively decrease until July 2014, when each customer will be paying no more than €0.19 per minute to make a call, €0.05 to receive one, €0.06 to send a text and €0.20 per MB to browse the Internet. In 2014, EU customers also will be able to shop for separate, competitive roaming-rates contracts.

This is good news for anyone living in an EU member nation as well as for any visitor who makes use of an EU-based mobile phone provider by, upon arrival, purchasing either 1) a disposable or returnable phone with prepaid minutes or 2) a local SIM card for his own smartphone. Anyone with a global SIM in his smartphone may or may not benefit from cheaper roaming rates, depending on his service contract.

Service providers in nations NOT part of the EU are not subject to these capped roaming rates, so, as before, their customers should check their contracted roaming rates because the charges from many phone companies can be huge. For instance, in the US, companies like AT&T charge as much as 50¢ per text message and $20 per MB of data to people traveling outside of their contracted service areas.

Jay Hoffman of Huntington, New York, wrote, “I am in contact with agents who rent apartments in Paris. About a year ago, the mayor started clamping down, with heavy fines, on owners renting vacation apartments that were not in commercial buildings. The result is there are fewer choice sites available, the market has gotten more expensive, and many rental agents who represented buildings/apartments have gotten out of the business.

“Renting a noncommercial apartment had been the common practice for many years; it was illegal but not enforced.”

Thanks, Jay. I brought this up in my September 2010 column, saying, “(Paris’) government housing agency has begun enforcing a 2005 law that requires any lease on a residential apartment to be for a year or more. To be legally rented for less than a year, an apartment must be classified as a commercial property.

“This law does not affect commercial short-term apartment rentals by licensed companies. It is directed toward private properties purchased with the intention of using them for short-term rentals only… . A private apartment owner who rents out his apartment once a year for a few weeks is not likely to be prosecuted.”

I was wondering how long it would take for the effects to be noticed. Have any of you been affected? Have any comments or advice?

Louise Wiley of Wilmington, Delaware, wrote, “When I saw the picture of the façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s in the article on Macau (May ’12, pg. 34), I was reminded of Sir John Bowring, British consul at Canton, 1849-1853, and Governor of Hong Kong, 1854-1859.

“When he saw the remaining wall of St. Paul’s, it inspired him to write the words to a hymn: ‘In the Cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time.” This hymn is still sung in many Protestant churches.’

“I enjoyed the article, remembering our trip there long ago.”

ITN is read by all types of travelers: those who travel independently, those who take group tours, those who hire a guide or just a taxi driver and people who do a little of each, not to mention enjoy cruising. It also reaches people who select deluxe accommodations, those who stay in 2- and 3-star hotels and those who are happiest finding a room for less than $20 a night.

I have a request for those of you who are bargain hunters as well as those of you who travel on a shoestring.

When someone mentions, in ITN, a hotel that charged hundreds of dollars a night and you recently stayed in that same city or town for significantly less, tell us where your accommodation was, what it was like and approximately how much you paid. Include contact info, if possible, or describe where and how to find the place. (“From the central RR station, head east two blocks and it’s next to the laundromat.”)

Also, let us know some of the amenities that it had or that it didn’t have plus anything else helpful to know. How close was it to public transportation, for instance?

The reason for writing in about a place does not have to be that it is exceptionally good, like no others, or especially bad and should be avoided. You’re also encouraged to write about places that are simply sufficient and which you would use again. Just tell it like it is. ITN is here to be helpful to every traveler.