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AIRPORT SECURITY ISSUES WHEN TRANSPORTING PORTABLE LIGHTING BATTERIES | by Phillip Simpson

A number of AIPA photographers have reported being refused permission to check in battery packs for their portable lighting systems at local and international terminals. The reason for this is that the chemicals contained within batteries can quickly corrode the fuselage of an aircraft and as such they are considered ‘dangerous goods'. It is therefore up to the individual photographer to convince airline officials that their batteries are safe to check in.

 

 

Having a written statement to the effect that 'these batteries are fully sealed, non-spillable and conform to clause A67 of the IATA safety standard' (an internationally recognized safety standard agreed by multiple airlines) is the key.


There are three ways to achieve this:

1. Check the batteries themselves to see if they are labelled to this effect.

2. Download a letter from the manufacturer of your lighting system stating that the batteries conform to the IATA safety standard. For example, for Profoto this can be downloaded from www.profoto.com if you click on 'downloads' and choose 'select document' on the right side on your screen.

3. Download the MSDS (safety data sheet) from the manufacturer and present this at the airport if challenged by airline staff or airport security.


Your chances of being allowed to check the gear onto a flight are much higher if you armed with this information, but success still relies on the mood of any given airline official on the day of travel. So other things you can do to increase your chances of checking the gear in without hassles include:

- Know your gear and be able to state immediately whether the batteries use lead-acid, lithium or other technology.

- Remember that officials in any situation naturally tend to avoid taking personal responsibility for anything that might cause them to lose their jobs. Lighting equipment can look quite foreign to non-photographers, so give a very clear explanation of what the gear is used for and use the word 'professional' liberally.

- If this does not work it is always worth demanding to speak to someone higher up. Airport security and the airlines themselves will have dangerous goods specialists who may be more experienced and helpful than the first person you encounter.


Remember to arrive early so that you have time to sort out problems if need be. In fact if you are boarding an international flight and the whole job will be in jeopardy if you don't have the right gear, then you could even go so far as phoning ahead, speaking to the highest official you can access and dropping their name if challenged at check in.

If the above measures fail to work for you, there is usually a separate check in area for dangerous goods, but they don't guarantee the batteries will necessarily travel on the same flight as you, so it's to be avoided if possible.

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