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Can You Take a Portable Charger on a Plane?

With the increase in the use of electronic gadgets, power banks are increasingly becoming a necessity, especially when you are traveling and are running low on battery. However, a lot of people don’t know whether they can take a portable charger on a plane.

Today, we will be talking all about power banks, and whether they are allowed on planes or not. The rules and regulations for carrying a power bank on a flight in the US are set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The rules have been made to ensure aircraft and passenger safety. We will be following these rules to inform you about what’s permitted and what’s prohibited when it comes to carrying your power bank or portable charger on a flight.

We recommend that you read through the given information before your flight, to avoid any unwanted surprises. Airlines are constantly updating and changing their rules to avoid any potential danger caused by batteries on a flight. Read down below to find out more.

Can you take a portable charger on a plane?

In short, yes. However, there are quite a few things that you should be aware of before you take your power bank on a plane. The TSA and the FAA have set a few rules and regulations which you need to follow if you plan to bring your portable charger with you on a plane.

Most of the power banks that are allowed on a flight need to be carried in your hand luggage and should be under a certain capacity. Most of the rules that apply to carrying a power bank on a plane are quite similar to other devices that use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, such as your mobile phone or your laptop.

What about checked-in luggage?

Power banks are not allowed to be carried in the cargo luggage due to safety reasons. The majority of the portable electronic devices these days use of a lithium-ion batteries because they provide maximum power capacity for portable gadgets. These batteries can be found in numerous electronic gadgets such as your laptop, memory backup, camera, MP3 players and more.

Though these batteries are safe for use, in extreme conditions they can be dangerous on an aircraft if not packed properly. In some cases, the batteries can burst into flames. Although the chances of it actually happening are low, it is still a risk to the aircraft and passenger’s safety.

Airlines can monitor the cabin and act quickly to prevent further damage if such a situation arose. However, monitoring the luggage compartment presents more difficulties. Also, fire extinguishers are available at hand in the cabin, however, it can be time-consuming to reach the bag that contains the exploded battery in the luggage compartment. This is the main reason that power banks are prohibited in checked-in luggage.

Other than this, it is also forbidden to carry recalled or damaged batteries and battery-powered devices, that can catch fire unless the recalled or damaged battery has been made safe or removed from the device.

The official IATA guidance

An official IATA document states the following:

Power banks are portable devices designed to be able to charge consumer devices such as mobile phones and tablets. For the purposes of this guidance document and the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, power banks are to be classified as batteries and must be assigned to UN 3480, lithium ion batteries, or UN 3090, lithium metal batteries, as applicable. For carriage by passengers, power banks are considered spare batteries and must be individually protected from short-circuit and carried in carry-on baggage only

IATA 2020 Lithium Battery Guidance Document
Source

People are often confused about whether power banks fall under the category of a lithium-ion battery or a lithium-ion battery contained in equipment. To get rid of this confusion, power banks have been described as “UN3480, Lithium-ion batteries” by the U.S. TSA Pipeline and Security of Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

What are the capacity limits for bringing a portable phone charger on a plane?

As we mentioned above, only power banks with a certain capacity are allowed on airlines. According to the FAA and the TSA, all portable chargers to be carried on an aircraft must be under 100Wh (Watt-hour) limit.

While most of the power banks available in the market don’t go above this limit, it is still important to double-check the capacity of the unit you will be carrying.

Overview of FAA and TSA portable chargers recommendations:

The table below summarizes the main FAA and TSA portable chargers recommendations:

Capacity
(watt-hours)
Hand luggageChecked-in luggage
up to 100WhYesNo
between 100Wh and 160WhYes (with a permit from the airline)No
more than 160WhNoNo
Summary of FAA and TSA portable charger recommendations
plane wing flying through clouds, sky and sunset

How to Convert Wh to mAh?

Calculating the capacity of your power bank in Wh is actually quite straightforward. Follow this simple method to calculate your portable charger’s capacity in Watt-hours:

Wh = mAh / 1000 * V

*Divide the milliamp-hours (mAh) by 1000 and multiply times the Voltage (V) to get the battery’s Watt-hours (Wh). The Voltage to use is generally 5V.

Thus, for example, if a power bank has a capacity of 10400mAh: divide the value 10400 by 1000 and multiply it by the Voltage of 5. This gives a capacity of 52Wh, which falls under the 100Wh limit.

10400mAh / 1000 * 5V = 52Wh

What if my portable charger has a higher capacity than the limit?

For any type of battery, the maximum capacity allowed on an aircraft is 100Wh. Power banks and portable chargers also fall under the category of batteries, and hence should be smaller than 100Wh, or 27000mAh.

However, if you still carry a power bank above this limit in your check-in luggage, then you are required to remove it. In some cases, it will be confiscated by the TSA airport security. To avoid getting yourself into trouble, it is important to ensure that you are carrying the right power bank in your hand luggage.

Moreover, it is also important that your power bank (and any other portable battery that you might be carrying) is properly packed and protected. This protects the battery from a potential short circuit. Retail packs come in quite useful while packing your power bank. It can also be packed in a protective pouch or a plastic bag if you don’t have a retail pack. Ensure that any battery that you will be carrying is turned off, and can’t be activated by accident.

Is there any way to carry a power bank with a larger capacity?

Some people are required to carry a power bank with a larger capacity due to different reasons.  Portable chargers with a battery capacity between 100Wh and 160Wh can be carried on aircrafts, but with special permission.

Hence, if you want to take a power bank above the allowed limit, you will need to contact the airline beforehand and ask for a permit. At times, some airlines check them into the special luggage area.

How many power banks are you allowed to take with you on a flight?

According to the TSA and the FAA, passengers may only carry a maximum of two (2) batteries on an aircraft. If you need to bring more than two power banks onboard, you will need to contact the airline and request for special permission.

On the other hand, it is possible to divide the batteries if you are traveling with someone you know. This way you can carry more batteries in total, as each person is allowed two power banks onboard.

Carrying two power banks implies that, without the need for an airline permit, you can carry a maximum cumulative capacity of 54000mAh.

Are the rules for carrying portable chargers in the USA different from other countries?

Yes, every country has their own precautionary measures when it comes to taking portable chargers on flights. Hence, if you are flying with a non-US airline or into a different country, you might want to contact the airline to check what you can bring onboard.

airport security tsa portable charger

Summarized precautionary measures for carrying portable chargers on aircrafts

To make it simpler for you, we have mentioned some points below that you can check before you head for your flight.

  • Your power bank should be under 100Wh limit
  • You need to request for special permission if your power bank is above 100Wh limit
  • Ensure that your power bank comes with a power output sign on it
  • You can only take a maximum of two (2) portable chargers with you onboard
  • Do not put your power bank in the checked-in luggage
  • Carry your power bank in your hand-luggage only
  • For safety purposes, keep any spare batteries in a safety pouch or a battery case
  • Ensure that the rules and regulations you are following are updated
  • Ensure that the restrictions you are following are applicable for the airline you will be travelling with.

Conclusion

That’s about all as far as carrying your power bank on a plane is concerned. Hopefully by now you should have a better understanding of whether you can take a portable phone charger on a plane. By following the proper rules, you will not only be protecting your own life, but also that of hundreds of other passengers that will be flying with you.

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