UPDATE: All major US airlines ban hoverboards

All three major U.S. airlines and virtually all other U.S. carriers now ban the transport of so-called hoverboards aboard their aircraft because of safety concerns.

The most recent airline to join the ban is Southwest (NYSE:LUV). The final hold-out, Southwest decided to join other airlines in banning the devices on its flights effective Saturday, Dec. 12.

"Due to concerns regarding the lithium batteries used in hoverboards ... Southwest Airlines will not transport hoverboards and similar items in either checked luggage or as carry-on items," the airline said in a statement provided to TheTravelPro. "We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but the [s]afety of our [c]ustomers and [e]mployees must always come first."

On Dec. 10, American Airlines (NYSE:AAL) and United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) joined Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) in banning hoverboards, the somewhat generic term for self-balancing personal transportation devices, because of safety concerns around the lithium-ion batteries that power the devices.

"Given the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, American has decided to prohibit hoverboards from its planes, both as checked and carry-on luggage," an American Airlines spokesperson said in an email. American's policy will go into effect on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Those devices range from the unit to the right that looks like a skateboard deck with a single wheel to two-wheeled platforms to larger devices that more closely resemble the popular Segway.

The troublesome issue is the devices’ power source: powerful lithium-ion batteries that are often poorly labeled, according to Delta Air Lines's Dec. 10 statement.

“Delta reviewed hoverboard product specifications and found that manufacturers do not consistently provide detail about the size or power of their lithium-ion batteries,” the airline said in a statement announcing the ban.

Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK), which put its ban on the boards into effect the week of Dec. 1, also issued a statement Dec. 10 echoing Delta's concerns.

"Hoverboards are usually powered by lithium ion batteries, which are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as hazardous materials," Alaska's statement said. "Internal short-circuits can occur with lithium ion batteries, which can then lead to a 'thermal runaway' where the battery overheats and bursts into flame."

Delta noted that such occurrences are uncommon. However, thermal runaways involving lithium-ion batteries -- though considerably larger than those that power hoverboards -- led to the temporary grounding of Boeing’s (NYSE:BA) 787 Dreamliners in 2013.

Delta's investigation revealed devices often contain battery varieties above the government mandated 160 watt-hour limit permitted aboard aircraft.

Lithium-ion batteries are common in a wide variety of consumer electronics beyond hoverboards but they are still subject to restrictions. Under Federal Aviation Administration rules, there is no limit on consumer sized" lithium-ion batteries of up to 100 watt-hours per battery. However, larger lithium-ion batteries cannot exceed 160 watt-hours to be transported. Any spare larger batteries not already installed into an electronic device must be in carry-on baggage, and no more than two spares are allowed.

Other airlines, including jetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU), Frontier Airlines (NYSE:FRNT), Hawaiian Airlines (NASDAQ:HA), Virgin America, Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ:SAVE), Allegiant Air (NASDAQ:ALGT) and British Airways also ban the devices altogether.

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