The specific restrictions for bringing batteries on planes depend on what type of battery it is. Most smaller batteries and ones that are integrated inside consumer electronics are allowed on planes, but only in hand baggage. Spare batteries and power banks are more restricted or completely banned, depending on how powerful they are.
Batteries are regulated on planes because they’re a potential fire risk. In case of damage or if the two terminals touch one another, they can cause a serious fire, which can be difficult to put out.
The good news is that the rules for bringing batteries are similar all across the world. They’re enforced by the FAA, IATA, CATSA, and other airline regulators. And they all follow very similar guidelines. Down below, we’ll cover the general rules for traveling with batteries internationally.
Electronic Devices With Lithium Batteries
Small consumer electronics with built-in lithium batteries are allowed in hand and checked baggage. This includes laptops, cellphones, tablets, cameras, wireless earbuds, wireless keyboards, and similar electronics. They don’t have any quantity of watt-hour restrictions.
When possible, they should be packed in carry-on luggage. But you can also pack them inside checked bags if they’re switched off. You should pack them safely to protect them from accidental damage and from accidentally turning on and overheating.
Devices that can produce extreme heat are allowed, but only in carry-on luggage. This includes cordless hair straighteners, hair dryers, and curling irons. They must be switched off, protected from accidental activation, and fitted with a safety cover over the heating element.
Some Electronic Devices Are Banned or Restricted
Damaged or recalled electronics with built-in lithium batteries are banned from hand and checked bags. If the device looks altered or damaged and you can’t turn it on, most likely you won’t be allowed to take it with you. Popular examples of recalled electronics include the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and some Macbook Air and Pro models made between 2015-2018.
Electronic transportation devices are usually banned, except for wheelchairs and mobility devices. This ban includes segways, electronic skateboards, scooters, and similar devices. That’s because they come with powerful batteries that are over 100 Watt-Hours.
And lastly, electronic cigarettes and vaping devices are banned from checked bags. You can bring them only in your carry-on luggage.
Spare Lithium Batteries and Power Banks
Power banks are treated as spare batteries. If you have a smart suitcase that comes with a power bank, it has to be removable. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use it as your carry-on.
Lithium Spare batteries and power banks are restricted based on their Watt-Hour rating. And Lithium Metal batteries are restricted based on the total amount of lithium inside (in grams). If they’re below 100 Watt-Hours or below 2g lithium, they’re allowed in hand baggage, but banned from checked bags. You can bring as many as you want, but they should be intended for personal use.
Power banks and spare batteries with a Watt-Hour rating between 100-160 or 2-8g of lithium are allowed in carry-ons, but only with airline approval. You can also bring only 2 of these batteries.
If the rating is above 160 Watt-Hours or they have over 8g lithium inside, they’re completely banned from checked and hand baggage.
How to Calculate Watt-Hours
The problem with power banks is that their capacity is usually mentioned in milliamp Hours (mAh), not Watt-Hours. To calculate Watt-Hours, you need to find out the voltage of the power bank. They’re usually 5V, but you can find the exact rating by checking the product description or the small lettering on the battery.
To get Watt-Hours, use the following formula: Watt-Hours = mAh (current) * V (voltage) / 1000. For example, if a power bank has a 20 000 mAh capacity and a voltage of 5V, it’s 100 Watt-Hours (20000 * 5 / 1000).
Dry Cell Single-Use, Alkaline (AA, AAA, C, D) And Rechargeable Batteries
Dry batteries are usually allowed in hand and checked baggage. But some countries restrict them only to carry-on bags. So when flying internationally, always pack dry batteries inside your hand baggage.
Some examples of single-use dry batteries powered by Alkaline include A, AA, C, D, Button cell, and 9 Volt batteries. They’re used for disposable cameras, Bluetooth headphones, portable shavers, and similar electronics.
There are also less-popular types of dry batteries that are rechargeable, made using Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Nickel Cadmium (NiCad). These are also allowed in hand and checked baggage. Some examples include rechargeable batteries for power tools and some rechargeable shaver batteries.
Non-Spillable Wet Batteries
Non-spillable wet batteries contain liquid inside them. You can tell them apart by shaking the battery and checking if it has liquid inside. They’re also marked as “non-spillable”, and usually contain Lead Acid.
Only smaller non-spillable batteries are allowed in hand and checked bags, which are intended for small consumer electronics, like electric razors. They must be below 100 Watt-Hours and not exceed 12 volts.
Larger Lead Acid batteries intended for cars and vehicles are banned from planes. The only exception is if they’re in a wheelchair or a mobility device. In this case, the battery must be installed on the mobility device, stay in an upright position, and be protected from short-circuiting.
Chargers and Wired Electronics Have No Restrictions
A lot of travelers get this wrong, but wired electronics and chargers have no packing restrictions. You can pack them inside hand and checked bags, and you don’t need to remove them from your bag when going through security.
The only exception is power tools and wired electronics that can be used as weapons. They’re only allowed in checked bags.
How to Pack Batteries in Your Luggage
When packing batteries, power banks, and devices that contain batteries, you always need to be extra careful. Pack them inside the middle of your suitcase instead of at the edges to avoid accidental damage. It’s also advised to wrap them in soft clothing.
When packing spare batteries, always put a piece of tape over each terminal to avoid short-circuiting. If you don’t have a piece of tape over the terminals, if they’re placed next to other batteries or metal objects, the two terminals could connect and cause a fire.
If the device can produce extreme heat, there should always be a cover over the heating element.
Summing Up – Traveling With Batteries
You’re free to pack most electronic devices with lithium batteries and most power banks in your carry-on. But make sure that they aren’t damaged and that they’re charged, so that you can prove that they aren’t faulty and working correctly. You can also pack most other types of batteries in your carry-on.
You shouldn’t pack batteries or battery-powered devices in checked bags. And remember that large-capacity batteries might have extra restrictions.