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Are power banks allowed on planes? A complete guide to flying with portable chargers and other Lithium Ion batteries

Best portable chargers for long-haul flights? We've got you covered.


Table of Contents

For those always on-the-go – or even for those who just like travelling for leisure or in general, one of the big questions that’s always asked is: can I bring my power bank to a plane? The short answer is yes. But with that yes comes some important things to keep in mind for a smooth boarding process. The full details are listed in the article below however, whilst regulations vary the general rules are as follows:

  • Power Banks in carry on luggage only
  • 100wh Maximum capacity (typically this works out to be 27000mAh)
  • Up to two power banks per person

Are power banks allowed on planes?

Man working in flight

Yes. Power banks are allowed on planes provided that they meet the airline and the governing aviation body’s requirements (which we’ll get to in a bit), are stored in your carry-on luggage, and preferably in strong or their original packaging. This is because power banks are considered batteries – specifically as lithium-ion batteries which means that they can be hazardous and flammable. There could be a risk of an explosion or fire during the flight. That’s why if the protocols aren’t followed i.e. if you stored your portable charger in your checked-in luggage or it doesn’t meet the safety regulations, you can be called out to remove it from your bag or it can be confiscated.

Safety Hazards on Lithium-Ion Batteries

As stated above power banks are treated as lithium-ion batteries, but what exactly does that mean? According to the OSHA, while lithium batteries are generally safe, they may present a fire/explosion hazard when not properly stored or used. They also present chemical and electrical dangers like chemical burns and electrical shock. This is why power banks have specific rules and regulations which are the following.

Power Bank Regulations

Various power banks being tested

Maximum of 100Wh allowed.

Generally, as per the Federal Aviation Administration, you are allowed to bring your power bank on board only if it’s rated at a maximum of 100 watt hours (typically 27000 mAh) of capacity. This is in line with the International Air Transport Association’s rules of bringing a portable charger with up to a maximum of 160 watt hours of capacity. This means that with prior approval, most airlines would allow you to take your power bank on the plane with you if it’s rated at 101Wh to 160Wh. Anything beyond that is prohibited. But you don’t have to worry too much about it as most portable chargers are able to meet the 100Wh requirement anyway. It’s also enough capacity to power your phone, tablet, Nintendo switch, and even Macbook Pro through the longest flights.

*Are 20,000mAh power banks allowed on flights?

Yes. Power banks rated at 20,000mAh are allowed on board as they fall far below the 100Wh (around 27,000mAh) limit set by the governing aviation bodies.

Maximum of two power banks allowed per person.

With most airlines, each person is allowed to bring a maximum of two power banks each rated at 100Wh capacity on board. However, you can ask your airline for a special permit should you need to travel with more. You can also divide portable chargers between you and a companion as the limit is per person.

To be stored in carry-on luggage only.

Since they’re batteries, power banks are to be strictly kept in carry-on luggage because of its hazardous tendencies. This is because logically speaking, the flight crew would have an easier time putting out a fire in the cabin than in the cargo area. Also, should the power bank’s components malfunction and cause a fire, it would be very dangerous if it reacts with other flammable materials that are in checked-in luggage thereby causing a very big problem for everyone on the plane.

The FAA, TSA, and IATA Specific Requirements on Power Banks

Samsung 25W with passport product shot

The three major aviation bodies: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) all have the duty to ensure passengers’ safety when travelling via air. This is why they have pretty strict regulations on Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) which portable chargers are a part of.

FAA and TSA Requirements

The FAA and the TSA are the main regulatory aviation agencies in the US which means that they’re the ones that dictate what can go on a plane or not. For power bank requirements, here are the specifics:

According to the FAA (for clarity’s sake, power banks are referred to in this section as a battery): 

  • Battery voltage must not exceed 12 volts and 100 watt hours. 
  • No more than two spare (not installed in device/equipment) batteries per person may be carried.
  • These spare/uninstalled batteries must be in their original retail packaging or strong packaging.
  • These spare/uninstalled batteries and their packaging must be marked “nonspillable” or “nonspillable battery”.

IATA Requirements

Meanwhile, the IATA is the governing body for international airlines as about 80% of the world’s airlines are members. It stands for promoting safe, reliable, and secure air services for the world’s consumers which includes having strict regulations on bringing power banks on board. Here are the requirements:

According to the IATA (for clarity’s sake, power banks are referred to in this section as a portable power bank):

  • Portable power bank voltage must not exceed 160 watt hours.
  • No more than two portable power banks per passenger may be brought on board.
  • Portable power banks are to be placed in their original retail packaging or other insulating terminals (ex. taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate protective pouch).
  • These portable power banks are to be stored only on carry-on baggage.

Watt Hours vs. Milliamp Hours

Power bank product shot on airplane window

As you probably noticed in this document, the aviation bodies use watt hours instead of milliamp hours to rate the capacity of allowed portable chargers. This is because watt hours provide a more accurate measurement than milliamp hours as milliamp hours is not a measurement of battery capacity unless voltage is taken into account. This makes watt hours a better standard for power banks and for different types of batteries.

How to Calculate your Power Bank’s Watt Hours

Because most portable chargers are labelled with milliamp hours, some packs might not state the rated watt hour capacity. Thankfully, calculating for your power bank’s watt hour is pretty simple with this formula: Milliamp Hours/1000 x Voltage = Watt Hours.

To illustrate, an example is a 10,000mAh power bank which would be:

10,000mAh/1,000 x 3.7V = 37 watt hours

*The voltage of most power banks is 3.7 volts which is what we used for this example but it would be better if you check your power bank’s specifications. Typically, this is printed somewhere on the power bank.

Best Power Banks for Long Flights

Various power banks with testing equipment product shot

To help you get an idea of what power banks you’re allowed to bring on board, here is a little list of our recommended portable chargers (best for long haul flights).

  • Zendure Supertank
  • Anker Powercore+ 26800 PD
  • PD Pioneer 26800mAh
  • PD Pioneer 20000mAh 80W AC Portable Laptop Charger

These packs are sure to meet power bank requirements and will be able to power up your devices (including laptops) which means that you can do some work during your flight without having to worry about your gadgets dying. These power banks are able to deliver that using Power Delivery which is compatible with most laptops. In saying that though, if your laptop does not support Power Delivery then you don’t need to worry as one of our recommended power banks – the PD Pioneer 20000mAh 80W AC Portable Laptop Charger has an AC outlet.

What to do if I Need to Bring a Power Bank that Exceeds the Allowed Watt Hours

Typing on laptop in plane

Should you urgently need to bring a power bank that does not meet the maximum watt hours requirements, all hope is not lost. You could secure a special permit from your airline and have your pack approved. This varies per airline but most are pretty lenient as long as you’re able to fix the paper work. In most cases, they would probably check it in a special luggage area.

Conclusion

To summarize, as long as your power bank is rated at 100 watt hours or less (as per the FAA and TSA) or at 160 watt hours or less (as per the IATA), you can bring it on board; anything more than that is either prohibited or needs a special permit. All you have to do is make sure that the pack is in either strong or protective packaging in your carry-on luggage. To calculate for the watt hours of your portable charger, use this simple formula: Milliamp Hours/1000 x Voltage = Watt Hours. Now if you’re looking for heavy duty power banks that can see you through long haul flights, here are our picks: the Zendure Supertank, Anker Powercore+ 26800 PD, PD Pioneer 26800mAh, and PD Pioneer 20000mAh 80W AC Portable Laptop Charger. Happy flying!

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