Can You Bring Portable Chargers on A Plane? (through TSA)

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Virtually all modern smartphones and tablets promise an “all-day battery life.” But in reality, most of us are fortunate to get half a day out of our devices. So what do you do when you’re about to board a plane, and your battery is already halfway drained? Can you bring your portable chargers on a plane?

You can bring portable chargers on a plane, but you should pack them in a carry-on bag. Additionally, each portable charger must not exceed a capacity of 100 Wh. However, with some airlines, you can bring a portable charger that is 100.1-160 Wh. But portable chargers that exceed 160Wh are not permitted on any flights.

Related: Can You Bring Batteries On A Plane?

Are Portable Chargers Allowed On Planes?

TSA allows portable chargers on planes, but travelers must only pack them in carry-on bags. It’s essential to understand that airline regulations for battery packs are incredibly tight.

The FAA is rather specific regarding using power banks on airplanes:

First, travelers can bring portables charges that should not have a capacity greater than 100Wh. Reason: External chargers and power banks are likewise regarded as batteries and should not have a capacity exceeding 27000mAh, or 100Wh.

Additionally, they state that batteries between 101 and 160 Wh require airline approval, and anything over 160 Wh should not be on a flight.

The FAA is also clear-cut when it comes to packing your portable charger. Passengers should only bring their portable chargers in their carry-on bags, never in their checked luggage. The rule helps prevent any accidental fires from happening in the cargo hold.

Some travelers are uncertain whether power banks or equipment-contained lithium-ion batteries are the same. However, the US TSA Pipeline and Security of Hazardous Materials Safety Administration refers to power banks as “UN3480, Lithium-ion batteries.” Travelers must therefore transport them safely.

How Many Portable Charges Can You Take On A Flight?

The TSA and FAA do not explicitly state how many portable chargers under 100Wh travelers should bring on a plane. However, they clearly state that all batteries must be for personal use exclusively. TSA does not permit passengers to carry any batteries meant for subsequent resale.

Another crucial aspect is that each traveler is limited to having two batteries of 100Wh to 160Wh onboard. These must be placed in carry-on baggage and have airline approval. If a passenger needs to bring more than two, they’ll need to get explicit permission from the airline.

Some individuals must transport powerful chargers for professional, medical, or recreational purposes. In this scenario, they should get in touch with the airline and request a permit for their power banks.

How Can You Determine The Wh Rating Of A Portable Charger?

It’s essential to understand the relationship between Wh and mAh. The abbreviation mAh stands for milliamp-hour, a unit of electric charge frequently used to represent the capacity of tiny batteries.

Milliamp-hour specifies the amount of charge that passes through a place in a specific duration of time. It frequently defines and characterizes the overall quantity of energy that a battery retains. A system will run longer when a battery’s mAh value is higher.

Another widely used and reliable unit for evaluating the capacity of batteries with various voltages is Wh, which stands for Watt-hour. You can calculate Wh by multiplying a battery’s output voltage (V) by its output current (amps) over a predetermined period (usually in hours).

Watt-hours are typically used for energy storage devices, whereas we commonly use mAh for batteries and cells.

As two batteries with similar mAh values may deliver different amounts of energy, mAH does not represent a battery’s power capacity. So, to determine the power capacity denoted by Wh, we must also consider another quantity, the Volt.

The term “volt” describes the difference in electric potential between a battery’s positive and negative terminals. The force necessary to break through the resistance and transfer the electrons enables the battery to function.

Some portable chargers don’t measure their output in Watt- hours–they use milliamp hours or mAh. To calculate a battery’s Wh, multiply the volts (V) by the ampere-hours (A) (Ah). Travelers using mAh can divide the value by 1000 to get to Ah.

It’s straightforward.

Milliamp Hours (mAh)/1000 x Voltage = Watt Hours

(mAh)/1000 x (V) = (Wh)

For instance, if you wish to bring a 10,000mAh portable charger on a plane: 10,000mAh/1000 x 3.7V equals 37 Wh.

Although there are many different power ratings and voltages for power packs, a typical 3.6V power pack would need roughly 28,000 mAh to exceed the 100 Wh threshold. If you see “3.6V” or “3.7V” with a value less than 28,000 mAh, there’s a strong chance your battery is suitable for airplane travel.

How Risky Are Portable Chargers When Flying?

There is a non-zero potential of disaster if a traveler unintentionally brings a large battery on a flight or leaves it in checked luggage. A fast search for “exploding battery on a plane” will turn up some incidents, although most of these fires don’t result in crisis.

The main known incident involving batteries was a UPS plane that crashed in 2010 at Dubai International Airport following a lithium battery fire that started in its cargo. The crash is one of the main reasons the FAA has such strict limitations on how many lithium batteries each passenger can bring.

The risks of bringing portable chargers in your carry-on luggage are low. But in 2018, a carry-on bag containing a portable charger exploded and caught fire on a China Southern Airlines flight.

Luckily, the aircraft was still on the ground, and no one was injured. But, the lithium-ion battery in the travel charger caught fire, causing a conflagration that required the airline to reassign passengers to another flight.

So, while the risks are low, it’s important to remember that fires can happen.

Why Should You Pack A Portable Charger In A Carry-On Bag?

It would be best to pack your batteries in your carry-on for safety reasons. Some batteries can ignite a fire due to an internal chemical reaction.

When this happens, it’s known as “thermal runaway”—a phenomenon in which the lithium-ion cell starts to self-heat uncontrollably. It can quickly lead to a fire or explosion.

If a fire breaks out within a cabin instead of a cargo hold, it is much simpler to contain and extinguish. It’s difficult to detect a fire in the cargo, let alone put it out.

Airlines ensure all batteries, including those in portable chargers or power banks, are in the cabin. The cabin crew can deal with something quickly and safely if something goes wrong.

How Should You Pack A Portable Charger In A Carry-On Bag?

Travelers must securely pack portable chargers to safeguard against a potential short circuit. You can use the retail pack to pack a power bank.

If the power bank has a removable battery, you can store it in a container, plastic bag, or safety pouch. It’s crucial to ensure the batteries can’t get activated.

Also, passengers should keep spare batteries in their original packaging, a battery case, or a different pouch or pocket to prevent short circuits.

When traveling with a power bank, it’s essential to remember that they are still considered batteries. As such, travelers should be aware of certain restrictions and best practices.