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Why the Hottest Gift This Christmas Is Already Banned From Flying

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 12/4/2015 Cynthia Drescher

Powerboards (aka "balance gliders" or "hoverboards") are seemingly everywhere this season, despite being banned on public streets in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Justin Bieber, an avid skateboarder whose entourage is equipped with balance gliders, helped the gadget rise in recognition when he Instagrammed himself playing with it while flying onboard his private jet. Recent cameos in Missy Elliott's new "WTF" music video, on Ellen's "12 Days of Giveaways", and as a viral dance video have cemented the toy as the hottest gift for Christmas 2015. But despite its popularity, the crackdown on the gadgets is now extending to the airport.

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Airlines like JetBlue prohibit the toys as both carry-on or checked luggage, noting that they qualify as neither a medical assistance device or a personal electronic device (such as an iPad or laptop). The greatest concern, however, is the fact that they contain lithium ion batteries, which are considered Dangerous Goods and can and have caused fires on airplanes. The threat from these batteries is so great that a new type of onboard trolley, patented only this week by Airbus, has been designed to smother burning personal electronic devices in a fire-proof environment. This way, if your smartphone has a meltdown, as happened last week onboard a 787 or your “personal air purifier” overheats, as happened on an A380 over the Pacific Ocean last year, the resulting mid-air fire emergency can be immediately contained and extinguished.

One airline still permitting hoverboards on their planes is Delta, though only if the batteries are 160 watt hours or less, a detail that’s not always easy to find on the devices. One of the most popular models, the $400 Swagway, even notes in its FAQ that the device is outside the lithium ion battery limits and prohibited as carry-on baggage. Planning to travel with your powerboard or give it as a gift this holiday season? The best option is to ship it ahead or simply leave it home, or risk leaving it behind completely.

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