Battery bandit in Bamako

This item appears on page 53 of the November 2013 issue.

I have found that agents at many foreign airport security checkpoints are concerned about batteries in carry-ons. My most bizarre incident occurred in January ’13 when I was leaving Bamako, Mali, on a tour with Universal Travel System (Santa Monica, CA)

After my carry-on passed through the scanner, our tour escort, Herb Gobles, and I were pulled out of the line for a detailed check of our carry-ons. The agent checking my bag confiscated my spare AA and AAA batteries that were packed in plastic containers and also took the batteries in my flashlight. When I protested, he allowed me to keep the plastic containers but did not return the batteries.

I was not a happy traveler, since my laptop mouse uses two batteries and was indicating it was down to a 1% charge. In addition, Herb knew that I use a portable CPAP machine, so he returned to the security checkpoint and told the agent on duty that I needed the batteries for my CPAP machine and could possibly die in my sleep if the machine failed. He said he was responsible for my safety and did not want the hassle he would have if I died. 

The agent told him that the agent who confiscated the batteries had gone off duty and that I should return to retrieve my batteries.

When I returned, I found more batteries than just my own on the agent’s desk. I was told that there was no written policy prohibiting batteries and only the one agent confiscated them. The new agent didn’t justify the first one’s actions and told me to take all I wanted. I took just the ones that fit my flashlight and my containers.

Of course, I don’t carry any loose batteries in my carry-on, per the TSA’s “Safely Packing Batteries” instructions.


Woodland Hills, CA