Travelling with Lithium Battery powered Mobility Scooters or Motorised Wheelchairs
Posted by Warren Chew on
Lithium battery powered foldable mobility scooters such as the Solax Mobie or Genie and motorised wheelchairs such as KD Smartchair, PW-800AX and PW-1000XL are very popular now, and one of the reasons for this is that many people want to bring it along when they travel overseas.
However, airlines are very strict, and sometimes self-contradicting, when allowing lithium batteries on board. The last thing you'd want is to have the battery being disallowed on board and left behind when you fly.
If you need to bring the scooter or electric wheelchair along for your trip, following the tips below will help minimize (not eliminate!)the risk of such disruptions.
Travel only with the user on board.
Bigger lithium batteries up to 300WH are allowed for mobility aids, but not for other devices. This is a privilege airlines reserve for people with mobility issues, and not for able-bodied passengers, who are allowed to bring batteries only up to 160WH in capacity.
Solax batteries as well as those for PW-800AX and PW-1000XL are rated 240WH, so it is above the 160WH general threshold, but below the 300WH threshold allowed for mobility aids. You should be allowed to bring 2 of such batteries (one for equipment, one spare).
So it is OK if you are travelling with your parent to Singapore to buy the scooter and bringing it back with you to your home country e.g. Indonesia, Philippines etc. It is also OK if you're bringing your parent overseas for a holiday.
But it is not OK if you are able-bodied, but you're trying to buy it and bring back for your parent. It is better to bring it back without the battery, then have us send the battery to you direct from Solax factory. The shipping cost is only about SGD 150, but it will save you a lot of hassle.
As for the KD Smartchair, each chair has 2 batteries rated 120WH, so travelling without the user is much easier.
Travel on full-service airlines. Avoid budget airlines.
If you're bringing your parent with the scooter for a holiday, it is best to use full-service airlines. From anecdotal feedback from customers, budget airlines are very unfriendly when it comes to bringing motorised wheelchairs or scooters on board.
Remove the battery, wrap it in bubble wrap, and keep it in your hand-carry luggage.
This is a requirement, so please do not keep the battery connected to the scooter or put it in your check-in luggage. Have it wrapped in bubble wrap and put it in your hand carry bag within easy reach so that you can show the airline staff when requested.
The bubble wrap is to satisfy them that the terminals will not accidentally short circuit and spark a fire. And the reason they won't allow you to check in the battery is so that if a fire does start, it will be noticed immediately by the passengers and crew, so that immediate action can be taken to put out the fire.
Check with the airline beforehand, preferably via e-mail.
To be safe, it is best to write in to the airline, tell them you're travelling with a handicapped passenger and will be bringing a mobility scooter along, and ask for permission to bring it on board as well as the proper procedure for doing so.
Calling in is not the best idea, because honestly, many of the ground handling staff are not well versed in batteries and may just disallow your battery to be brought on board. In such situation, it is best to have an e-mail with prior approval printed out to show them.
Have the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on hand.
The staff may or may not request for this document, but it is best to have it ready. We will provide the MSDS for your scooter or wheelchair upon request.
Still, even if you take all these measures, we cannot guarantee that disruptions will not happen. As mentioned above, not all the airline staff are well-versed in batteries, and they can sometimes contradict themselves.
We had an incident recently where the passenger met all of the above criteria, but ground crew rejected the battery and only allowed the scooter on board. The passenger had to go back to his home country, talk to the more senior staff, before the airline admitted their mistake and offered to bring his battery to him on the next available flight.
So if you follow our advice and problems still occur, please do not blame us. At the end of the day, it is still subject to the airline staff who happens to serve you on that fateful day, how he or she interprets the policy. We can only do our best to help you reduce the chance of it happening to the minimum.