As power banks become commonly used, many people don’t know if they are allowed to bring them on the plane or not. The airline industry is known for being very strict in regards to the items allowed onboard. But unfortunately, they don’t do a very good job in clearly communicating the rules and regulations that refer to power banks and other batteries. Therefore, knowing and following them is what makes a trip stress-free.
Are portable chargers allowed on airplanes?
The short answer is yes. However, there are some restrictions and rules that you should be aware of. First of all, not every kind and size of a power bank is allowed on a plane.
FAA and TSA power bank rules and regulations
The TSA website is very short and to the point when it comes to power banks. They just say that they are allowed on carry-on bags but not in checked-in bags. This rule is enforced because power banks can be hazardous and contain flammable materials so there might exist a chance of the battery catching on fire during the flight. Logically, it’s easier to put out the fire if the source is in the cabin rather than in the cargo area.
If you do happen to pack your power bank in your checked-in baggage you could be later called upon to remove it from your luggage, or worse, airport security can remove it themselves and confiscate it. Either way, you don’t want any of these to happen so make sure to only place your batteries in your carry-on baggage.
For extra information they link to the FAA, which go into more details about taking power banks on planes:
1. Any battery that you take on board should not exceed 100 Wh. They also specify that batteries between 101 Wh and 160 Wh need airline approval. Anything above 160 Wh is forbidden on the plane.
Here’s how to calculate the Wh of your battery
In order to see how many Wh your battery has, you just need to multiply the volts (V) by the ampere-hours (Ah). If you want to calculate using mAh just divide by 1000 (to get to Ah) and after than multiply by the volts. Or, just use our very own mAh to Wh calculator below:
2. Another important thing to mention is that each person, regardless if passenger or crew member, is allowed to have no more than two batteries of 100 Wh to 160 Wh on board.
3. It is forbidden to charge any devices during the flight.
4. It is also essential to properly pack portable batteries in a way in which they are protected from a potential short circuit. An efficient method to pack a power bank is using the retail pack. If the pack was lost, the battery can be covered with tape, it can be put in a case, plastic bag or protective pouch. It is essential to make sure that they can’t be activated by accident.
Non-US airlines or airports can have stricter rules
Although most of the airports you’ll pass through implement the same rules and regulations as listed in this article, various airline companies and airports may apply different policies concerning power banks and other batteries.
So if you are flying around Europe or Asia, the rules may differ from the ones in the USA. Therefore, you should check the rules of your airline company and on-route airports before your flight or even before actually booking the ticket, if batteries are an important thing for you. For example, while it is commonly allowed to have power banks up to 160 Wh capacity with you, some airlines may restrict the maximum level by 100 Wh.
From personal experience, I can tell you that in May 2018 I passed through an airport in Thailand that had a limit of 15.000 mAh for power banks. So if you do want to make sure your power banks arrive at the destination with you, do inquire at your airline and transit airports what their battery policy is. For example, this is the official policy of Thai Airlines:
Make sure your device has a power output indicator. For example, 10400mAh is a power bank that clearly displays its output. In case you don’t have a portable charger that shows the power output on the device itself, it helps if you bring the original packaging as all the details should be listed there by the manufacturer.
Another factor that should be taken into consideration is whether the power bank clearly indicates power output. It may not always be stated in the airline’s policy and regulations. However, you may find out upon arrival at the airport that the power pack should show the power output otherwise the security may confiscate the power bank.
Such situations have happened to a few people at the airport in Beijing. While passing the security check, they were asked to give up their power banks if they wanted to board the plane. After asking the reason why they were pointed to the written information letter which, unfortunately, was written in a foreign language for them.
That’s why it’s recommended to double-check the rules of a particular airline and airport. A short call or email can save you a lot of headaches at the airport.
What if you NEED to carry a larger battery?
Some people actually need to carry high power batteries ether for business, health or recreational reasons. In this case, they should contact the airline beforehand and obtain a permit for their batteries. In some cases, they check them into the special luggage area.
What You Should Know About Other Types of Batteries
There are different types of batteries that people carry with them while traveling, so airlines also set the regulation for other battery types. Most types of batteries are allowed in the carry-on baggage on the aircraft, and some are also allowed in the checked luggage. Also, the batteries taken on the aircraft have to be discharged.
Generally, batteries that are used to power small electronic items are allowed in both carry-on and checked luggage. They include AA, AAA, C, D as well as 9-volt and button size battery types. Also, one may take rechargeable batteries such as NiMH or NiCad. They are commonly used in such devices as flashlights or emergency medical equipment. They should be safely packed or placed in the device.
Lithium batteries are allowed only in the carry-on baggage. Power banks fall under the lithium batteries category, so the power, size and weight restriction are similar. Lithium batteries are used to power such devices as cell phones, laptops or radio-controlled toys. Only those that don’t exceed the limit of 25 grams Equivalent Lithium Content (ELC) are allowed on board the aircraft. A measurement of ELC to watt-hours is eight grams ELC equals 100 watt-hours. To be exactly sure of this measurement and whether the battery is allowed on the airplane, it’s recommended to check in with the airline as well as the manufacturer of the device.
Hoverboards are banned by several major airlines in the US because of multiple cases of overheating and fires caused by some models of the device. While there is no strict policy concerning hoverboards, the regulations clearly cover the capacity of lithium-ion batteries that can be brought to the aircraft. Most of the manufacturers of hoverboards don’t provide exact details about the capacity of the battery used by the device. Thus, it is difficult to determine if hoverboards are allowed on an airplane.
Spillable wet cell batteries are a type of battery used in the bicycles or scooters and are not allowed on the plane either in checked or carry on luggage. However, there is an exception for electric wheelchairs that also use this type of battery. Electric wheelchairs are allowed provided the battery will be removed from the device and transported in a special container.
Passengers traveling with this type of a wheelchair should arrive at the airport beforehand and notify the airline employee that they travel with a spillable wet cell battery. However, if the battery used in a wheelchair is non-spillable, it is allowed on the aircraft if it meets the requirements of other battery types.
Batteries within devices
There are a lot of different devices that have built-in batteries such as electrical shavers, flashlights, toys etc. These devices are allowed to be stored in the checked-in luggage, but they must be prevented from any damage or short circuit. The device should be off, and the owner should make sure that it won’t switch on by accident.
The only exceptions to this rule are electronic cigarettes and vaporizers which are not allowed in checked-in luggage and instead must be packed in the carry-on luggage.
Here’s a list from the FAA with the rules regarding taking batteries on planes as of 2016:
Pre-flight checklist for power banks
- Make sure your power bank is under the 100 Wh limit
- Make sure that your device has a power output sign on it
- Pack your power bank in your carry-on luggage
- Do not take more than two power banks of over 100 Wh with you
- Make sure the power bank cannot be accidentally switched on
- Call your airline before the flight and ask about their restrictions
- Check with the on-route airports and ask about their restrictions
- If your power bank is above any airline or airport limit, ask for a permit
This list may look daunting at first sight but it does not take too much time to go through each item. And since there is no absolute international standard when it comes to taking power banks on planes, this list might save your device from being confiscated.
If you had any direct experience with power banks or other batteries during your flights, I’d love to hear your story in the comments!