Can You Bring Portable Chargers on a Plane?

Airports · 7 min read · Jan 20, 2022
Can You Bring Portable Chargers on a Plane

When we travel, we always feel concerned about getting bored, especially when having long stops and waiting periods at airports or on long flights.

Fortunately, technology has offered many options to keep ourselves busy and entertained. Using a laptop computer or a tablet to work or play a casual game can be a good way of spending time and avoiding boredom when traveling.

Unfortunately, batteries of these devices usually last less time than the time we spend waiting at the airport or sitting on the airplane, so we need to make sure we can charge them to continue using them. Otherwise, they will be useless.

The good news is that now we can have portable chargers in the form of power banks or battery packs as they are usually called.

The bad news is that there are certain rules for carrying a portable charger on a plane, and not all portable chargers are allowed.

Therefore, it is important for you to know exactly whether your portable charger complies with the rules that apply to make sure you can carry it and use it during your trip.

In this guide, we will be sharing all the details you need to know regarding portable chargers, lithium-ion batteries, and the rules that apply when it comes to carrying them on a plane for you to be ready for your next flight.

A central view on a yellow background of a black smartphone connected to a white portable charger.

Portable charger: What the Federal Aviation Administration says

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA is the authority that sets the rules in the United States regarding what you can or cannot have with you in your carry-on luggage or your checked-in luggage during a flight. And other authorities around the world usually follow suit.

However, it is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that enforces those rules at airports, and they have the final call on what portable chargers are allowed.

Following the rules set by the FAA is probably what the TSA official or airport security officer will require from you to let you pass the airport security checkpoint and board your plane.

Therefore, we are going to give you the details you need to make sure your power bank is allowed on your next flight.

What size portable charger can I bring on a plane?

Many people ask this question, but it is actually not the size that matters. What matters is the capacity of your portable charger or power bank.

If your power bank has a capacity of 100 Watt-hours (Wh) or less, then you are free to bring it on your next flight.

For this matter, the FAA rule is very specific and it states that any battery which is taken on board an airplane should not exceed the capacity of 100 Watt-hours (Wh) or 27000 milliamp-hours (mAh), which is the equivalent, and it is a unit often used by power bank manufacturers.

The FAA rule also says that any battery (or a power bank, or a portable charger) with a capacity between 101 Watt-hours and 160 Watt-hours will be allowed upon airline approval.

They finish by stating that any battery, portable charger, or power bank with a capacity over the 160 Watt-hour capacity is completely prohibited and cannot be carried on the plane.

To put it simply, you need to make sure your power bank does not exceed the 100 Watt-hours or 27000 milliamp-hours (mAh) capacity to avoid trouble, or at least be able to defend your case against the TSA official at the airport, who is the one with the final decision, as stated before.

A portable charger in black being held by a person.

Where can I carry my power bank?

This is another important aspect you need to keep in mind when traveling on a plane with a power bank or a portable battery.

Portable chargers or power banks fall into the category of lithium batteries or spare batteries. Some of these batteries work by having an internal chemical reaction which sometimes can lead to a fire. Therefore, FAA and TSA regulations have been very strict about where they can be carried.

The cargo hold of an airplane is completely sealed and is hard to reach during a flight, making it difficult to control a fire that could be generated by a power bank. Moreover, any bottle containing more than 100ml, flammable liquids included, are only allowed in checked luggage that goes into the cargo hold, which makes fires in this area of the airplane even more dangerous.

On the other hand, there are easy-to-reach fire extinguishers in the cabin, and a fire generated inside carry-on luggage is much easier to contain quickly. Therefore, power banks are allowed as long as they have the capacity described above and are taken on board inside the carry-on luggage.

This is one of the simplest rules to comply with, as you will need your power bank close to you so you can use it.

A portable charger installed in a suitcase.

How many power banks can I bring on a plane?

This is another common question since the capacity limit makes people think it is better to have more than one just in case.

The first thing you need to know is that good power banks with a battery capacity just below the permitted limit should last your trip with only one charge, so you do not need more than one charger on a plane.

Nevertheless, in case you need more than one for any reason, maybe to charge different devices at the same time, you need to know that the FAA and the TSA have no clear limit for power bank banks below the 100 Watt-hours limit.

However, you will not be allowed more than two lithium batteries in the range of 101-160 Watt-hours, so make sure you only carry one or two power banks with this battery capacity. Also, remember that these power banks will only be allowed upon airline approval.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is that the regulations are clear about spare batteries and, therefore, power banks being for personal use only, so carrying too many may be considered an attempt of carrying lithium batteries for resale and will not be allowed on board.

Lithium-ion battery-equipped electronic devices on a table: a laptop computer, a smartphone, and a tablet.

Lithium-ion battery-equipped devices

Lithium-ion battery-equipped devices include all electronics that come with battery packs pre-installed for their normal operation.

While these devices are treated differently, and they can actually be carried in your checked luggage, we do not recommend doing it because they can easily be damaged or stolen.

Now, what you need to consider is that the battery capacity limit also applies to these devices, so make sure all your lithium-ion battery-equipped electronics are below the 100 Watt-hours capacity and that the output power is clearly indicated to avoid any inconvenience.

Spare lithium-ion batteries

As well as with power banks, you may have spare batteries for some of your devices like your camera, for example. And the same rules apply.

So, if you are carrying any spare battery packs, make sure you pack them in your carry-on luggage and that they comply with the capacity rules to avoid any trouble.

Also, any power bank or battery pack that you keep in your carry-on baggage should be individually protected from a possible short circuit. You can achieve this by simply covering contacts with tape, putting your portable batteries in a plastic bag before packing them in your carry-on baggage, or using a protective pouch inside your carry-on bags.

Electronic cigarettes

While electronic cigarettes and vaping devices are allowed on board in a carry on bag, they must be appropriately packed and have no visible defects, exposing the battery pack.

Just like every electronic device with a battery, electronic cigarette and vape must not exceed the allowed battery capacity, otherwise they will have to be left behind.

Each airline has different requirements for these devices, so make sure you know all the rules before leaving for the airport.

Keep in mind, that smoking anything on board is unanimously forbidden across the globe, so e-cigarettes will have to stay in your bag. Some additional safety steps you can take are placing your vapes and e-cigarettes in a zip-lock bag to prevent any spillage in case changes in pressure damage the liquid containers.

Electronic devices powered by batteries.

Portable chargers allowed: a summary

This may be a big amount of information to digest, so we recommend you double-check with your airline before you travel.

You should also check the hazardous materials safety administration website for more information on what you can or cannot carry on board a plane.

That said, if you want to bring your portable charger on a plane, here’s a summary of what you need to check to make sure it is the right portable charger.

  • Verify the capacity to make sure it complies with the maximum capacity allowed.
  • Talk to your airline to request permission to bring your portable charger or an external battery pack if it has a higher capacity. Do not bring more than two.
  • Verify that it comes with a power output sign for easy confirmation by the TSA officials.
  • Pack it in your carry-on luggage.
  • Take precautionary measures to prevent short circuits in portable devices.
  • Use a battery case or a similar container to prevent chargers and batteries from being accidentally switched on.
  • Contact your airline and express any doubt you may have and ask about other possible restrictions.
  • Talk to the airports you will be at in transit to confirm they allow you to bring your portable charger.

This is it. Remember, whenever in doubt, it is always better to ask. So, below you fill find some commonly asked questions about portable chargers and lithium-ion batteries

A smart phone charging from a portable battery.

FAQ

I can bring a portable charger on board, but can I use them during flight?

Yes, you can. There are no restrictions for using an external battery pack during the flight to charge your devices. However, with changes in pressure, you should monitor your charger, make sure it doesn’t overhead and catch on fire.

Check with your airline for specific requirements.

Why are batteries considered dangerous in air travel?

They are a fire hazard. While many electronic devices nowadays are made according to the highest standards and certifications, there have been instances where damaged or faulty battery packs caused fire on board. That is also why you are only allowed to have them in carry-on as the fire can be contained much easier than in the cargo hold of the aircraft.

Are lithium ion batteries used in aircraft?

The simple answer is no. One, lithium ion batteries can cause fires that are difficult to extinguish fast; and two, they are heavy and cumbersome, that is why aircraft manufacturers avoid using this type of batteries for aircraft propulsion reasons.

Why do lithium ion batteries tend to catch on fire on planes?

Since aircraft fly at extremely high altitudes, the atmospheric and weather conditions are much different than what we are used to on the ground. These extreme changes in the environment can make some batteries malfunction and cause them to overheat or combust.

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Carlos Collantes
Carlos Collantes
A mechanical engineer and aviation enthusiast dedicated to share some knowledge by creating top-notch content, especially in engineering and aviation topics.

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