This season’s hot toy – the one that was found under Christmas trees nationwide – is the Hover Board, a smart technology, self-balancing scooter (you’ve seen it; you probably thought it was a battery-powered skateboard.) And it has already been adapted for sports use.
The cool factor doesn’t extend to airlines, though, which are starting to crack down on the devices. According to Travel Weekly, several major airlines have banned the boards, stating that they are a fire danger.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines have stated they are banning hoverboards in checked or carry-on luggage. JetBlue Airways has already prohibited them. Southwest Airlines prefers that passengers with a Hover Board or other items that use lithium batteries carry them on the plane, but a spokeswoman said the airline is discussing the topic further.
Several smaller airlines including Alaska, Virgin America, Hawaiian, Spirit and Allegiant said they too had banned the devices.
According to Delta, the batteries for Hover Boards exceed the wattage of batteries allowed on planes.
The Federal Aviation Administration has urged airlines to tell passengers not to pack spare batteries in checked bags because they can ignite and cause a fire in the cargo compartment. More than a dozen airlines around the world have stopped accepting bulk shipments of lithium-ion batteries.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating at least 10 reports of Hover Board fires, some of which were captured on video. Spokeswoman Patty Davis called it a high-priority investigation because of the scooter's sudden popularity.
According to MediaPost, sellers are concerned too. Hover Boards have been pulled completely from Overstock.com and Amazon has suspended the sales of most of the devices pending documentation from manufacturers that they are following safety standards.
“Meanwhile, more than 30 people have already been hospitalized for a variety of hoverboard-related accidents, including head trauma and injuries to limbs,” writes Barbara Nefer for the San Francisco Examiner.
However, is the Hover Board any different from ice skates or inline skates, skateboards or collapsible scooters? All of those have been used with resultant injuries. A bigger worry at this point seems to come from the fact that with a major brand pulled off the shelves, knockoffs will flourish – and those may have risk of their own.
“Amazon has asked all hoverboard manufacturers to provide documentation they are following all applicable safety standards, as first reported by gadget site BestReviews, and later confirmed by the Verge, writes Quartz’ Josh Horwitz. “Hoverboard’s sudden surge in popularity came in the midst of a patent war, opening the door to dozens of importers who are purchasing shoddy products from manufactures in China," as Quartz has recently reported.
In this sense, Hover Boards are not unlike any other brand-name piece of sports equipment; if a replica is available for less on the black market, it will sell, to the detriment of users.