As always, there are more details and exceptions when it comes to airline rules and regulations. So let’s have a closer look at what types of power banks you’re allowed to bring on flights.
If you’re the visual type, feel free to watch this video in which I discuss most of the ideas in the article.
FAA and TSA Regulations Regarding Portable Chargers
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), recognized bodies in the United States, share the responsibility of ensuring a secure and highly functional aerospace system and safeguarding the country’s transportation networks to guarantee unrestricted mobility for individuals and commercial activities. They are the principal regulatory authorities dictating the type of items permissible on flights, including portable chargers or any other type of battery.
Pictured below, you can see the main rules when it comes to power banks:
Let’s discuss these rules in more detail below.
1. Maximum Battery Capacity Permitted: 100Wh (or 160Wh With the Express Airline’s Permission)
The FAA provides in-depth guidelines regarding the conditions for allowing batteries on flights. Basically, any battery brought onboard must not exceed a power capacity of 100Wh.
They also clarify that any external chargers or power banks are classified as batteries, and their capacity must not be over 100Wh.
This capacity is equivalent to 27000mAh in the case of regular power banks. Moreover, it states that batteries with power capacity between 101Wh and 160Wh require the airline’s approval, while those exceeding 160Wh are strictly prohibited on flights.
2. Portable Chargers and Other External Batteries can Only be Taken in Hand Luggage
The TSA adopts a clear-cut stance concerning power banks: these devices are only permissible in hand luggage but not in checked baggage. This regulation is driven by the potential risks associated with power banks, which can contain combustible substances, posing a fire or even explosion hazard during flights.
Understandably, if a fire were to occur, crew members would have a better chance of extinguishing it if the source is located in the passenger cabin, rather than in the cargo area.
Some passengers don’t know if power banks are considered standalone lithium-ion batteries or lithium-ion batteries contained in equipment. However, the U.S. TSA Pipeline and Security of Hazardous Materials Safety Administration describes power banks as “UN3480, Lithium-ion batteries” Thus, they must be transported accordingly.
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 place your batteries in your carry-on baggage.
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 is lost, the terminals should be covered with tape, and then the battery 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.
3. You Are Allowed a Maximum of Two Power Banks With Capacities Between 100Wh and 160Wh
Another crucial factor to note is that each individual is permitted to carry a maximum of two batteries with capacities between 100Wh and 160Wh, on the plane. Of course, with the explicit airline permission for each of them, as stated in the previous chapter.
There is no clear limit imposed by the TSA and FAA regarding the number of power banks under 100Wh you can carry. However, they do clearly state that all batteries must be for personal use only and that it’s not allowed to transport any batteries intended for later resale.
Non-US Airlines and International Airports’ Regulations for Battery Packs
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 booking the ticket.
For example, while it is commonly allowed to have power banks up to 160Wh capacity with you, some airlines may restrict the maximum level by 100Wh.
While the FAA is the governing body in the United States of domestic airlines, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is a trade association of the world’s airlines, which helps to formulate industry policies and standards.
According to the document “passengers traveling with lithium batteries”, issued in February 2019, power banks are considered spare batteries, which must be individually protected from short-circuiting and carried in carry-on baggage only, regardless of the capacity.
It is also stated that each passenger is limited to a maximum of 20 spare batteries of any type without approval, as long as their capacity is below or equal to 100Wh. The operator may approve the carriage of more than 20 batteries.
However, passengers are permitted a maximum of 2 power banks between 100 and 160Wh in carry-on baggage only, and those with power banks and batteries of capacity over 160Wh must prepare them to be carried in cargo, in accordance with the 60th Edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR).
The following table shows a summary of such criteria:
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, such as British Airways, which limit the number of batteries up to 100Wh in hand baggage to 4 rather than 20. Thus, it is advisable to contact your carrying airline in advance of travel as they may impose additional restrictions.
Another example is Thai Airlines, whose official policy is shown in the following picture:
This graph shows that the airline had been implementing these regulations as early as 2015, four years before the IATA document came into effect.
Make Sure the Capacity is Clearly Listed on Your Device
It may not always be stated in the airline’s policy and regulations, but you may find out upon arrival at the airport that the power bank should clearly showcase its capacity to comply with safety regulations. The INIU BI-B42 is an example of a power bank that clearly displays its output both in mAh and Wh:
In case your portable charger doesn’t show the power output itself, bringing the original packaging might be helpful.
If the device’s power output is not labeled, airport security may decide to confiscate it. This situation has 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.
How to Get Past Airport Security With a Power Bank
During the security check, you’ll need to take out the power bank from your bag and place it on a tray alongside any other electronic devices you may have.
So anything from phones, laptops, e-cigarettes, smart watches, etc will go in the same tray as your portable charger. Another thing to keep in mind is not to cover these devices with any pieces of clothing or bags. They should go in different trays.
Ideally, all the items placed on the tray are clearly delimited from each other for easy identification by the security personnel. Here’s an example:
Pre-flight Checklist for Power Banks
The following list may look a bit daunting at first sight, but it does not take too much time to go through each item. And it might save your device from being confiscated.
- Make sure your power bank is under the 100Wh limit
- If your device is between 100Wh and 160Wh, ask for a permit before flying
- Do not take more than two power banks within 100Wh and 160Wh with you
- Make sure that your device has a power output sign on it
- Pack your power bank in your carry-on luggage
- To prevent short circuits, keep spare batteries in their original packaging, a battery case, or a separate pouch or pocket
- Make sure the power bank cannot be accidentally switched on
- Contact your airline before the flight and ask about their restrictions
- Check with the on-route airports and ask about their restrictions
If you had any direct experience with power banks or other batteries during your flights, share your story in the comments!
How to Determine the Watt-hours (Wh) Rating of a Battery?
If you’re unsure of how many Wh one of your batteries have, you can easily calculate it. In order to do so, you need to multiply the volts (V) by the ampere-hours (Ah). If you are using mAh, just divide the result by 1000 (to get to Ah). You can also use our very own mAh to Wh calculator below:
mAh to Wh conversion calculator
Energy Result in Wh
*Please note that the voltage of the average power bank is 3.7V. You can use this value as a base for calculating the Wh of your device. However, if possible, check your batteries’ specifications and input the exact voltage for your product. More info about the mAh to Wh calculator.
What You Should Know About Other Types of Batteries
There are different types of batteries that people carry while traveling, so airlines also set regulations for them. Most types of batteries are allowed in carry-on baggage in the aircraft, of which only some are also allowed in checked luggage. Besides, some batteries taken on the aircraft have to be discharged.
Generally, batteries used to power small electronic devices are allowed in both carry-on and checked luggage. These include AA, AAA, C, and D, as well as 9-volt and button-size battery types. Besides, one may take rechargeable batteries such as NiMH or NiCad, which are commonly used in devices such as flashlights or emergency medical equipment. These should be safely packed or placed in the device.
Lithium batteries are allowed only in carry-on baggage. Power banks fall under the lithium batteries category, so the power, size, and weight restrictions are similar. Lithium batteries are used to power cell phones, laptops, or radio-controlled toys. Only those that don’t exceed the limit of 25 grams of Equivalent Lithium Content (ELC) are allowed onboard 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 consult with both the airline and the manufacturer of the device.
Spillable Wet Batteries and Non-spillable Wet Batteries
Spillable wet cell batteries are a type of battery used in bicycles or scooters and are not allowed on the plane either in checked or carry-on luggage.
Nevertheless, battery-powered wheelchairs are allowed as long as the battery is removed from the device, which will be later placed in a special container. Passengers with this type of wheelchair should inform the airline employees that they intend to travel with this kind of battery
If the battery used in a wheelchair is non-spillable, it is allowed on the aircraft. However, these should be rated at 12V and 100Wh. Two spare batteries per passenger are permitted.
Batteries Within Devices
Numerous portable gadgets, including shavers, flashlights, toys, and more, incorporate internal batteries. These items can be stowed in checked luggage, but measures should be taken to avoid any damage or potential short circuits. It’s essential to ensure that the device is powered off, and precautions are taken to prevent it from inadvertently turning on.
However, there’s an exception to this guideline for electronic cigarettes and vaporizers. These items are not permissible in checked baggage and must instead be transported in carry-on luggage.
The following is a list from the FAA with the rules regarding taking batteries on planes as of 2016:
Why are power banks regulated by the TSA?
Power banks and other Li-ion batteries have come under scrutiny pretty recently. As battery technology improved, more and more battery-powered items found their way onboard planes. However, given their relatively unstable nature, accidents were bound to happen.
After a series of battery-related incidents, some of them pretty serious, they became a subject of regulation. In the image below you can see the evolution of battery-related incidents on planes.
For more information on the topic, please visit this page.
What Size Portable Charger Can I Take on a Plane?
You can take any power bank under 100Wh (under 27000 mAh) without any type of special approval. Power banks between 100 and 160 Wh require special approvals from the airline before the flight. Anything above 160Wh is not allowed on planes.
Can Portable Chargers Go Through Airport Security?
Yes, portable chargers can go through airport security as long as they are within the designated capacity limits imposed by the TSA.
Do I Have to Take Out the Portable Chargers for TSA?
During the security check, you’ll be required to take out any portable chargers and place them in a separate tray alongside other electronics such as laptops, phones, or tablets.
Can the TSA Confiscate My Portable Chargers?
If the capacity of the portable charger is over the allowed limit, or if the battery shows signs of danger (such as bloating), the TSA will most likely confiscate your power bank.
How Many Power Banks Can I Take on a Plane?
If your power banks are under the 100Wh limit, the is no cap on their number. If your batteries are between 100Wh and 160Wh AND you also have approval for taking them on board, then you’re allowed a maximum of two pieces.
Can I Bring a 50000mAh Power Bank on a Plane?
A 50000mAh power bank has the capacity equivalent of around 185 Wh. This is over the maximum limits of both 100Wh and 160Wh (with airline permission). So you cannot bring such a large power bank on a plane. But you could, for example, bring two different power banks of 25000mAh each, since each of them would be under the 100Wh limit.
Can I Take Portable Chargers in My Checked-in Luggage?
No, portable chargers can only be taken in carry-on luggage.