Nowadays, cell phones, iPads, and other hand-held devices have become an integral part of our lives—they’re used for navigation, as a camera, and/or as a source of music. Absolutely nothing feels worse than having a dead phone with no way to charge it, and for this reason, power banks are increasingly growing in popularity. You can charge the power bank at home and then you can keep the power bank in your pocket or bag to recharge your device when it’s running low on juice.
Power banks are especially important for those who frequently travel, but there are a fair amount of restrictions when it comes to bringing your power bank onto airlines. In this article, we’ll discuss what exactly goes into a power bank and why airlines are so sensitive about power banks.
- Why are airlines sensitive about power banks?
- What size power bank can I take on a flight?
- Airline policies for carry luggage and power banks
- Should I check my power bank or carry on?
- Buying a power bank for travel
What Is a Power Bank?
A power bank is a portable battery charger that can be used to charge your devices. They generally function using Lithium-Polymer or Lithium-Ion batteries and can be very useful to have when you don’t have access to an electrical outlet. There are several different types of power banks, including phone/tablet chargers, solar chargers, phone case chargers, and laptop chargers. Power banks can essentially charge anything that uses a USB cable and can be as small as a tube of lipstick or larger than your phone. Generally, the larger the power bank the more capacity it has and the more use you can get out of it before it requires a charge.
Why Are Airlines so Sensitive About Power Banks?
Airlines can be quite sensitive about power banks when it comes to passengers taking them on the plane. Most airlines allow power banks with you on your carry on, but do not allow them to be in luggage and suitcases that are checked in and stowed under the plane as power banks contain lithium batteries are prone to burning, combusting, or catching fire. If a power bank contained in a piece of luggage in the baggage compartment were to catch fire, it would be very difficult to put the fire out due to the amount of luggage and decreased monitoring of the baggage compartment. In addition, the baggage compartment is where most animals who cannot ride in the main cabin are stowed—it would be a disaster to have the animal die from smoke inhalation or a possible explosion.
A situation in the cargo hold is different than if the power bank were to have an issue like spontaneously combusting in your carry on bag in the main cabin; a situation in the main cabin would be noticed quickly and be extinguished with the multiple fire extinguishers onboard.
What Size Power Bank Can I Take on a Flight?
The power bank size you can take on a flight cannot exceed 100 Wh. Anything above that (up to 160 Wh) needs a specific permit to take on a flight. It is also possible that you will need to follow the Dangerous Goods guidelines that the airline has in order to properly pack the power bank.
Almost all Power banks clearly label the capacity of their power bank, but if you need to calculate the capacity for yourself you can use this equation.
To calculate the capacity of your power bank, you can use the following equation:
(mAh)/1000 * V = Wh
mAh – Milliamp hours
V – Voltage
Wh – Watt-hours
You can also Google the brand and product of your power bank to check if you can find the relevant information about the capacity online.
Airline Battery Policies
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- China Southern Airlines
- China Eastern Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
- Air China
- All Nippon Airways
- Air Canada
- British Airways
- Air France
- Singapore Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Malaysian Airlines
- Korean Air
Should I Check My Power Bank in My Luggage or Take in Carry On?
We strongly suggest bringing your power bank in your cabin carry on luggage. Generally no commercial airline will allow power banks and batteries to be in checked-in luggage and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Furthermore, power banks must be for personal use only and most airlines enforce a limit of carrying two power banks for each passenger.
The US Department of Transport also has a great resource on the types of battery and battery powered devices that are permitted and not permitted for travel. See here.
What to Look for When Buying a Power Bank for Travel:
If you are in the market and searching for a power bank for your next business trip or vacation, there are several key factors to consider when buying a power bank.
Focus on Size
Power banks come in all shapes and sizes. This is important when considering portability and how much you are willing to carry. If you have an older iPhone that has a smaller screen and won’t be using it often, a small power bank would be sufficient and could fit in your pocket. However, if you have an iPad and you plan to watch movies on it, it would be more useful to get a larger power bank.
Power banks around 10,000 mAh can be roughly the same size as your phone. Anything larger than that would only be necessary for the frequent traveler who is always on the go and needs to charge multiple devices at the same time.
If you are going backpacking and carrying the majority of your things all day, it is important to consider the weight—every pound counts when you want to travel as light as possible. Power banks generally range in weight from 3 ounces (roughly 0.2 pounds) to 64 ounces (4 pounds). However, you cannot have both a lightweight and a high capacity power bank, so one factor must be compromised when considering the perfect power bank for you.
Power bank capacity generally ranges from 5,000 mAh to 60,000 mAh. However, 60,000 mAh power banks are not allowed on airplanes without special permission due to its exceeding watt-hours (Wh). The maximum specs for a power bank that is allowed on planes are usually around 24,000 mAh and roughly 90 Wh.
Input Amps (ie. how fast the power bank itself can be recharged)
Of course, you have to put time aside to charge your portable charger. If you have a layover that is only a few hours and need to charge your power bank before your next flight, input amps are an important consideration for your power bank purchase. The larger the input number, the faster the power bank will recharge. Input amps generally range from 1 Amp to 2.4 Amps, but luckily, input amps do not need to be balanced with the size and weight of the power bank—you can find lipstick size power banks that have very high input amps.
Output Amps (ie. how fast the power bank can recharge your devices)
If you are traveling with friends or family and are considering whether to bring one or two portable chargers to share, output amps will be very important for you. You want to be able to charge your device quickly so you can pass it on to your traveling companion.
Output amps generally range from 0.5 Amps to 12 Amps. Although fast charging is always convenient, it does not come without its challenges. As a large output amp reduces power bank capacity, using a one will drain your power bank much quicker than a small output amp.
All in all, it is true that airlines are sensitive about power banks on their planes, but for good reason. To ensure everyone’s safety onboard the plane, it would be wise to know power bank airplane rules before getting to the airport. Knowing the rules will help avoid any frustration when checking in and will help keep your trip as stress-free as possible!