Christin Milloy:

Rise up and seize equality

Air Canada Accidentally Bans Fictional Sci-Fi Device that Doesn’t Actually Exist


While travelling recently, I learned that Air Canada has updated their rules for dangerous baggage in reaction to recent safety concerns arising from small, high-powered lithium ion battery packs and their tendency to explode on a random basis. Such batteries and the devices that use them are now banned, even in checked baggage.

To train staff on the new policy, someone at Air Canada created a flyer complete with internal jargon like “contact your CSM,” and “follow the DRG reporting process.” Somehow, delightfully, that notice made it into a public-facing display at the check-in counter at New York’s Laguardia airport, where I was fortunate enough to be allowed to photograph it on March 31st as I made my way home from a business trip.

Dangerous Goods warning flyer from Air Canada

A threat to the very fabric of the space-time continuum

It seems their intention was to ban small motorized scooters such as the trendy balance-boards that light up and roll on two wheels, nicknamed “hoverboards.” One such device is pictured in the ban notice, captioned “Mini-Segway Hoverboard.”

Also pictured in the notice, however, is a flat skateboard-like device with two circular panels, a “Mattel Toys” logo, and no wheels whatsoever. If you’re thinking “there’s something very familiar about all this,” it could be because fans will recognize this immediately as the fictional “Hoverboard” from the classic 1989 film Back to the Future 2.

Two-wheeled balance-style “hoverboards” surged in popularity in real-life 2015 and have since gained notoriety for being prone to explode without warning. (“Great Scott!”)

By contrast, it’s unlikely the floating “hoverboard” from the fictional 2015 in Back to the Future 2 (if they existed in reality) would be powered by such dangerous lithium ion battery packs— As the cyberpunks in the movie helpfully explain, “those boards don’t work on water,” because they haven’t “got power.”

It’s unclear whether this flyer came to exist as the result of some cheeky Air Canada “butthead,” or by accident through an over-zealous Google image search by some “slacker” who’s never seen the best movie trilogy of all time (an email request for comment from Air Canada’s media relations department was never returned). Either way, the end result is “funnier than a screen door on a battleship.”

Given the intention of the notice was to train baggage handlers and other employees to spot potentially life-threatening goods dangerous to the operation of jets and other vehicles that “don’t need roads,” perhaps they’ll learn to “be careful in the future.”

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Christin Milloy