The rules are changing -- again -- for airplane carry-on luggage and checked baggage.
Starting January 1, 2008 -- tomorrow -- you may no longer put spare, back-up lithium batteries for your digital cameras, computers, cellphones, etc., in your checked baggage. They must be in your carry-on luggage.
The reason? The US Department of Transportation is worried that lithium batteries travelling all by themselves in your suitcase could rub up against your socks and the friction could cause them to explode and start a fire inside the plane's cargo belly.
But, obviously, DOT and does not believe these same lithium batteries rubbing up against your paperback book in your carry-on would cause a fire.
There's no word from DOT whether the chargers for those batteries can travel in checked luggage, or must also be in our carry-on.
It is okay to pack your computer or camera into checked baggage -- as if anybody in their right mind puts expensive and delicate computers or digital cameras into their checked baggage.
So, you can put your expensive electronic gadgets in your checked luggage, but not the spare batteries to power them. This makes no sense.
Also, the new rules prohibit more than two spare lithium batteries in your carry-on. Okay, I generally travel with two cameras and laptop. Which of my lithium battery powered "children" will have to starve to death for lack of battery power because I am now limited to carrying a back-up battery for only two of them? This makes no sense.
Wait -- there's more. DOT is now requiring that we carry our two -- only two -- spare lithium batteries in their original packaging. Yes, friends -- the very same paper and plastic you threw out before DOT made this new rule. Or, you have to pack them in another plastic baggie, the same kind that holds your three-ounces-or-less toiletries. Loose lithiums can be confiscated!
So, Happy New Year from DOT and the harried airport "police", who will have to carry out this new carry-on rule. The TSA, whose full name is the Transportation Safety Administration, now protecting us airline passengers from the dangers of lithium batteries, in addition to water, mascara, deodorant, hand lotion, cuticle nippers and pumped breast milk.
Here's the official word from the TSA website, Safe Travel.