Can portable chargers be taken on the plane?

Portable chargers are considered essential by many, and are a great way to ensure that your cell phone or laptop remains charged while you are on the go. As you plan your next vacation, you may find yourself wondering if you are allowed to travel with your portable charger. In this article, we will consider this question in light of TSA and FAA regulations so that you can determine whether or not you are allowed to travel with your portable charger. 

Luckily, in most cases, you are able to bring your portable charger on a plane. However, you may only carry your portable charger in your hand luggage. You may not check your charger, as the lithium-ion batteries they contain are sensitive to changes in temperature. These are the same batteries that are used to power cell phones and laptops. In extreme cases, these batteries can combust, causing fires. While the cabin crew can regulate the temperature and pressure inside of the cabin, the same is not true of the cargo hold. Additionally, if a fire were to break out, it would be much easier to control it inside of the cabin—where fire extinguishers are easily accessed—than in the cargo hold.

Further, there are restrictions on the capacity of your portable charger. According to the TSA and the FAA, passengers are not allowed to travel with a portable charger that exceeds 100Wh (Watt-hours). In certain cases, passengers may receive special permission from an airline to travel with a portable charger with a capacity between 100Wh and 160Wh. If you find yourself in an exceptional situation, contact your airline to request permission to travel with a portable charger with a higher capacity. 

Under no circumstances is a portable charger with a capacity greater than 160Wh allowed on an airplane, neither in your carry on nor in your checked bags. Because most commercially available portable chargers have a capacity below 100Wh, this restriction will present a problem for very few passengers. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to review the information on your portable charger in order to ensure that it does not exceed this limit. 

Most portable chargers list their capacity in milliAmp-hours, whereas the travel guidelines are in terms of Amp-hours. Hence, it is often necessary to convert between the two units. The formula is as follows:

MilliAmp-hours/1000 x Voltage = Watt-hours.

Or,

(mAh)/1000 x V = Wh

With this simple formula, you can convert the milliAmp-hours listed on your portable charger into the Watt-hours of the TSA and FAA guidelines. Use this method to determine whether or not your portable charger is safe for travel.

According to TSA and FAA guidelines, a single passenger may carry no more than two (2) portable chargers on an airplane. As was the case before, an airline may grant special permission to certain travellers who wish to travel with more than two portable chargers. Alternatively, you may divide the number of chargers you would like to carry by the number of passengers travelling with you. For example, if you wish to bring three portable chargers on an airplane, and are travelling with two other passengers who do not have any portable chargers with them, you may distribute the three chargers among the members of your party so that each person is only carrying one charger. 

As with many travel restrictions, the rules depend largely on where and when you intend to travel. Travel restrictions are continually being updated and different countries place different restrictions on the capacity and quantity of portable chargers that passengers carry. Therefore, it is always wise to contact your airline when trying to decide what to carry on the plane with you and what to leave at home.

As not all airlines offer in-flight charging services, and airport power outlets are often crowded, it is important to make sure that your portable devices stay charged throughout your journey. By following these guidelines, you can make sure that your portable charger makes it on the plane with you. If you find yourself in exceptional circumstances, be sure to contact your airline to ask about your options. Additionally, they may be able to answer more specific questions regarding your destination and the restrictions that apply there.


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