If you are planning on giving or receiving a self-balancing scooter, or a “hoverboard,” for Christmas this year and are flying to get to your destination, don’t plan on taking the hoverboard on the plane with you. Most major airlines have banned the hoverboard because of safety concerns regarding their electrical systems.
The major airlines that have banned the hoverboard are: Delta, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue. So far, Southwest Airlines will still allow the hoverboards to travel with you.
The hands-free hoverboards, which resemble Michael J. Fox’s iconic transport in Back to the Future, are powered by lithium batteries, which have long been a concern for airlines.
The batteries can catch fire if there is a defect in the product, physical damage or if there is a short-circuit, and the fire can spread rapidly when large numbers of batteries are packed together.
“It is preferred that personal transport devices are treated as a carry-on item,” reads a statement Southwest sent TIME. However, if a scooter is too large to fit in a carry-on bag, it will have to be packed in checked luggage and protected from “accidental activation,” the airline says.
Southwest is taking precautions with scooters, though. Scooters larger than 160 watt-hours will not be allowed on the planes and the same rule apples for other electronics powered with similar batteries.
Airlines have decided the ban the hoverboards because of several reports about the devices’ batteries catching on fire and exploding; and, in some cases, there has been serious damage reported. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that they have received at least ten reports of fires caused by the boards, according to NBC News. The number of reports to the commission are increasing daily.
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the potential risks of hoverboards. Earlier this month, the U.K. consumer protection agency said it withdrew more than 15,000 hoverboards because of a number of safety concerns, with included safety issues with the plugs, cabling, chargers, batteries, or the cut off switches. According to authorities, they inspected around 17,000 hover boards and found about 88 percent of them to be faulty.
IO Hawk and PhunkeeDuck are two of the major companies that produce the Hoverboards and the battery issues have been a major concern to them. Executives from these two firms say that their products are safe and emphasize it is the cheap knockoff hoverboards that are causing the fires and explosions.
According to IO Hawk and PhunkeeDuck, their hoverboards cost between $1,500 and $1,800 while the cheaper brands can be bought for as low as $385.
“Just out of safety precautions, I can understand where the airlines are coming from,” IO Hawk President John Soibatian told TIME. “There isn’t a dollar amount you can put on somebody’s life…Each one of our components is tested before we put it into the marketplace. When we charge $1,800 it’s not for the logo.”
Maxx Yellin, the co-founder of PhunkeeDuck, agreed with Soibatian.
“One of the main reasons this is happening is because non-personal transporter factories are trying to manufacture these units as fast and cheaply as possible,” Yellin told TIME in a previous interview. That, Yellin says, “results in shortcuts in production, using weaker motors, unreliable gyroscopes, and batteries, improperly designed motherboards, and most importantly skipping the correct safety testing that is needed with this product.”
Hoverboards are definitely drawing some attention as the new device to own. But, the market is now flooded with lots of different models and some seem to be made very poorly. Consumers need to do some research before buying a hoverboard and find out which ones are trustworthy. Some people just buy the cheaper product because it looks like a better deal. That causes problems for high-end hoverboard companies, such as IO Hawk and PhunkeeDuck because they get bad press for the cheaper products, when, according to them, their hoverboards may not be the problem.
[Image via Shutterstock]