US & Canada

Top US airlines ban 'hoverboards' over fire concerns

A melted and ash-covered hoverboard after a fire Image copyright ABC
Image caption US authorities have received at least 10 reports of fires in nine states

The three leading US airline groups have announced a ban on so-called hoverboards, saying their batteries present an unacceptable fire hazard.

American, Delta and United airlines say the ban will apply to checked and carry-on luggage on all flights.

A US government agency is investigating the two-wheeled scooters after receiving at least 10 reports of fires.

Other airlines have already banned the skateboard-like device, which is a popular gift item this holiday season.

JetBlue, Alaska, Virgin American, Hawaiian, Spirit and Allegiant have all previously banned hoverboards, and Southwest is having internal discussions on how best to handle the devices.

Delta has said that the self-balancing scooters often use batteries that exceed the wattage allowed on planes and are often poorly labelled.

The lithium ion batteries used in the devices are common in devices like phones, laptops and toys.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption So-called hoverboards are one of the most sought after Christmas gifts for teens this year
Image copyright ABC
Image caption The batteries that power so-called hoverboards have caught fire in some cases

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is conducting a high-priority investigation of hoverboards, because of their surge in popularity in recent months and reports of fires in at least nine states.

"We know consumers are giving it as a gift during the holidays," the watchdog agency's spokeswoman Patty Davis said. "We are working all across the country to move our investigation into the fires forward as quickly as possible."

Given the concerns about fires, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recommended that the scooters be transported only as carry-on luggage. Each airline is responsible for making its own decision about banning the devices.

Sales of the devices in the UK have taken off, despite the fact that it is illegal to ride them on public roads and pavements.

On Thursday, a 15-year-old riding a hoverboard died in a crash with a bus in London. And in September, a man used one of the devices during the robbery of a crate of energy drinks from a convenience store in south London.

British authorities have become alarmed by the devices, and have seized more than 15,000 of them at ports and airports in the UK in recent weeks.

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