With a dizzying array of personal gadgets by our side wherever we go, we’re now always looking for somewhere to charge them — hence the rise of portable power banks.
Keeping your tech charged whilst travelling is the whole reason smart luggage was invented after all! However, unlike all our recommended smart luggage — with built-in safe for flight tech — simply bringing your power banks in your luggage has lead to some confusion. Not all portable battery packs comply with airline rules.
Here is an FAQ covering everything you need to know about travelling with a power bank on aeroplanes.
Can I bring a power bank on a plane?
Yes. For 99% of readers, the power bank you currently own will be fine to bring on a plane in your carry-on luggage. The only difficulty arises with hardcore tech users, who may have purchased high-power packs (above 20,000 mAh) or are planning on bringing multiple battery packs.
If this is you, read on.
Power bank rules for flight
There are four main rules that are applicable to regulate power banks on airlines.
These are international rules and can be found under the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations for Lithium batteries. However, here is a brief summary of what they are and what they mean.
01. Where can power banks be carried?
Batteries must be carried on your person, or in your hand luggage. That means that you cannot put power banks in your checked luggage.
02. Type of battery
Each spare battery must not exceed the following:
lithium metal or lithium alloy batteries, a lithium content of not more than 2 grams;IATA — Lithium batteries
Lithium metal and lithium alloy batteries are not widespread — and not the same as Lithium-Ion. Lithium metal batteries may take off in the future, but at the moment, your power bank will be lithium-ion and therefore the 2 gram weight limit doesn’t apply to you.
03. Battery size
Lithium-ion batteries, a watt-hour rating of not more than 100 Wh.IATA — Lithium batteries
For hassle-free travel, IATA rules specify that your battery pack must be less than 100 Wh. Battery packs can be approved for a flight up to 160 Wh, but this requires special permission from the Airline in advance for every journey. As a general rule, you should ensure that your power bank is less than 100 Wh.
04. Battery condition
Must be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits (by placement in original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g. by taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch).IATA — Lithium batteries
This largely doesn’t apply to personal power packs. This regulation is designed for removable lithium batteries from devices such as electric mobility scooters — where there are exposed terminals that need to be kept separate. You do not need to purchase a specific airline packaged battery pack.
However, one thing that does apply is the ability to see the rating. For that reason, it is recommended to keep any manufacturers stickers displaying the battery specifications in good condition. Power banks that are well within the rules but don’t have their specifications easily legible have been confiscated before.
How many mAh can you bring on a plane?
27,000 mAh is the largest battery pack we have seen currently. But this should not be used as a hard limit, as this is a specialist battery by Zendure that discharges at 3.7 v to fit the largest capacity within airline rules of 100 Wh.
Why do I need to check?
Many lower mAh batteries will fall foul of the regulations as the limit is based around Watt-hours and not Milliamp-hours — calculations shown below. As an example, a 16,000 mAh battery that discharges at 6.5V would breach airline rules and not be allowed onboard without prior written permission.
If you are the most powerful power bank you can buy for travel, the Zendure SuperTank 27,000 mAh battery ticks all the boxes. It is the largest capacity battery that falls within airline regulations we’ve seen with a huge wealth of fast charging tech.
Calculating the size of power banks allowed on planes
Unfortunately, the rules surrounding travel with power banks use Watt-hours (Wh) as a limit, which is often not displayed by battery makers as it isn’t a standard unit, who prefer to use milliamp-hours (mAh).
- Milliamp-hours are a measure of charge — current flow over time. This is favoured by power bank makers because it is in the same units as your phone, tablet or laptop will use, so you can easily compare. New iPhone models have batteries that are roughly 3,000 mAh, there will be some loss, but a 10,000 mAh pack will charge them roughly 3 times.
- Watt-hours are a unit of energy. This is used to measure how much energy is within a battery pack — the capacity. This is why it is favoured of regulatory authorities for airlines because they categorise how dangerous a battery is by how much energy would be released if the battery was damaged. MAh is a bad way of displaying this. For example, you could have a battery pack of 10,000 mAh, but if it could discharge energy at 100V (unlike the 1.5–4.5v commonly shown in power packs) it would have a Wh rating of 1000 — ten times the airline limit.
Fortunately, there is a really simple converter to plug in your batteries details, and it will tell you the Watt-hour rating. Remember, under 100 Wh is the limit you are aiming for.
How many power banks can I bring on a plane?
For power banks under 100 Wh technically there is no limit.
For power banks between 100 Wh and 160 Wh you need special approval before you fly, and you can only bring a maximum of two.
For power banks above 160 Wh, you cannot bring them on a commercial aircraft and will need to look at shipping them.
While there isn’t a technical limit imposed by IATA on spare batteries and power banks below 100 Wh, unless you are a professional travelling with a lot of camera equipment, from personal experience I would advise you to stick to a maximum of 2 power banks for hassle-free travelling.
- Some airlines have arbitrary limits that are much lower than the IATA regulations. American Airlines have a limit of 4 power packs below 100 Wh, While Frontier restrict lithium-ion batteries to 2 on your person.
- Many TSA and security agents have confused the rules restricting 2 batteries between 100–160 Wh with all spare batteries.
- While you can technically travel with hand luggage stacked with power banks on some carriers, some will have tighter airline specific rules, and you may cause a delay and many questions.
Are there differing rules for International and Domestic flights?
No, the rules for bringing power banks on flights are the same between domestic and international flights.
- Power banks allowed on international flights
- Power banks allowed on domestic flights
There are occasionally some differences to batteries applied on some international routes which may have lead to this confusion of the rules.
As an example all laptops were banned on flights between the US and the Middle East in 2017 for four months. However, these are specific one off events usually led by intelligence (in that specific case due intelligence suggesting threats were disguised as laptop batteries). Any specific temporary exemptions like this will be communicated to you in advance by airlines.
Hopefully, this article clears up some information regarding travelling with power banks. Below is a brief summary of the key points:
- Power packs must be carried on your person or in your hand luggage not checked in
- Make sure your power bank has its specifications clearly labelled on it
- 20,000 mAh is a rough estimate for the maximum capacity, but it’s worth calculating as some specialist packs can be larger and allowed — like the Zendure SuperTank — or smaller and banned depending on voltage!
- Bring a maximum of two power packs onboard for hassle-free flying
- Domestic and international flights all have the same rules