Power banks have become a crucial part of our tech-savvy lives. They keep our smartphones, tablets, and even laptops juiced up when outlets aren't available. So of course, this makes them a travel tech essential! When it comes to traveling with power banks by plane however, there are certain rules and regulations to follow since these devices can pose a fire risk if not transported correctly. To make finding the right power bank for your travels easier, we thought we’d put together a guide on everything you need to know about taking power banks on a plane!
What is a Power Bank?
A power bank is essentially a portable battery charger which supplies power from its built-in battery via a USB port. It’s designed to conveniently recharge your devices when you're on the move and depending on its output capacity, can fully recharge smartphones, tablets, laptops, eReader and more! They typically consist of rechargeable lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries enclosed in a compact case; and vary in capacity, measured in milliampere-hours (mAh), which determines how much charge it can hold. Watt-hours (Wh) are a measure of their power capacity and are what you will need to pay attention to when traveling with a power bank.
Benefits of Using a Power Bank While Travelling
Packing a power bank in your travel bag means that you'll always have a dependable source of power for your devices, no matter where your journey takes you. During long-haul flights, where socket availability can be scarce, a power bank ensures that you can continue to use your various devices throughout the flight. Unexpected layovers or delays can also be managed easier as you won't have to scramble for charging spots in crowded airports. Additionally, if you're a fan of off-the-grid adventures, a power bank can keep your devices juiced up and operational; and they will even be handy when you’re out on long day-trips! A power bank guarantees you stay charged up and connected wherever you go.
Can You Take Power Banks on Planes?
Yes, you can. There are some rules and regulations you will need to follow, however. First of all, power banks should always be carried in your hand luggage or carry-on bags, not your checked luggage. This regulation applies worldwide and is enforced by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) because if a power bank were to catch fire in the hold, it would be difficult for crew members to extinguish it. Secondly, there is a limit to the power capacity of any power banks you bring aboard, as well as the number of them.
What Are The Power Bank Restrictions?
As per the IATA and New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, travelers can carry up to 20 spare batteries or power banks with up to 100Wh - this typically includes small power banks designed to charge mobile phones and tablets (and also includes earphone charging cases and more). Remember, these must always be carried in your hand luggage/carry-on bags and not in your checked luggage.
If taking batteries or power banks that exceed 100Wh, they must not exceed 160Wh, and you can take a maximum of two on-board. For example, you could take two power banks; or one power bank and one battery; or two batteries. Please note that for most airlines, you will need to request prior approval. Anything over 160Wh is forbidden and you will be asked to relinquish the item.
In addition to battery size, you should also take care in how you pack your power banks. Power banks need to be protected from damage and should be prevented from accidentally activating, thus they should not be placed in a back pocket or be allowed to get crushed or sat upon. The connectors where the energy comes out shouldn't touch metal objects like keys, coins, or other batteries because it could create a circuit, leading to fire or explosion. This is crucial as lithium batteries, which are common in power banks, can catch fire if they get damaged.
Power Bank Restrictions for Specific Airlines
Individual airlines may have slightly different guidelines and restrictions, so please look into these ahead of your travel. Here is a quick overview of the restrictions for popular airlines. You can take up to 15-20 power banks or spare batteries that are below 100Wh, for anything above, take note of these restrictions:
- Air New Zealand - You can take up to two power banks that exceed 100Wh but they must not exceed 160Wh.
- Qantas - With prior approval, you can take up to two power banks that exceed 100Wh but they must not exceed 160Wh.
- Jet Star - With prior approval, you can take up to two power banks that exceed 100Wh but they must not exceed 160Wh.
- Emirates - With prior approval, you can take up to two power banks that exceed 100Wh but they must not exceed 160Wh.
- Singapore Airlines - With prior approval, you can take up to two power banks that exceed 100Wh but they must not exceed 160Wh.
If you’re flying with an airline not listed above, you will need to check the rules of the specific airline as some may have their own regulations that are stricter than these guidelines.
How is Wh Calculated?
Watt-hours are a measure of a battery's power capacity. Higher capacity means higher risk, which is why airlines limit the number of devices and batteries that can be carried. This generally isn’t explicitly stated on power banks so you will need to convert this yourself.
Converting mAh to Wh
To calculate the Watt-hours (Wh) for your power bank, you will need to know the milliampere-hours (mAh) and the voltage (V) of your power bank - these are typically listed on the power bank or in its user manual. Generally speaking, the voltage for most power banks is typically 3.7V with some going up to 5V, though this may not always be the case.
The calculation formula is: (mAh) x (V) / 1000 = Wh
For example, if your power bank has 20,000mAh and its voltage is 3.7V, the calculation would be: 20000mAh x 3.7V / 1000 = 74Wh
Finding a Suitable Power Bank
We’ve put together a list of our Top Power Banks and Portable Chargers. The good news is that most (not all) of the power banks on the list will be suitable for airline travel so there are some great options there for you to consider. If you don’t manage to pick one up in time for your travels, don’t worry - you can swing by our PB Tech Airport store and enjoy tax-free shopping on Power Banks and more!
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Can you take a power bank on an Air New Zealand plane?
Yes, you can take a power bank on an Air New Zealand plane. You can carry power banks in your carry-on luggage but not in your checked luggage. Power banks should be protected from damage and you can take a maximum of 20 total, and of that, only two of 100-160Wh are allowed and the rest must not exceed 100Wh.
Can you take a 20,000mAh power bank on a plane?
Yes, you can typically take a 20,000mAh power bank on a plane. Most power banks operate at 3.7V, so a 20,000mAh power bank would typically be 74Wh, making it acceptable on most airlines. To be sure however, you should calculate the Watt-hour (Wh) rating for your specific power bank with the formula (mAh * V / 1000).
Can you take a 30,000mAh power bank on a plane?
With prior approval from your airline, you may be able to take a 30,000mAh power bank on a plane. It will largely depend on the voltage of the power bank. Let’s say it operates at 5V, using the formula above, that would make the power capacity 150Wh, which would mean you can take it with prior approval. However, check the voltage for your specific power bank and then calculate the Wh using the formula (mAh * V / 1000) to be sure.
What is the largest power bank allowed on a flight?
The largest power bank allowed on a flight, as per international aviation regulations, has a capacity of up to 100 Watt-hours (Wh) without needing specific airline approval. However, power banks with a capacity between 100Wh and 160Wh can typically be carried onboard with airline approval. Power banks exceeding 160Wh are prohibited. Each airline may have its own specific guidelines, so it's always best to check with your airline in advance.
Why are power banks restricted on planes?
Power banks typically contain lithium-ion batteries, which, though generally safe and widely used, pose potential safety risks if they are damaged, defective, or have their terminals short-circuited. If they overheat, they can go into what is called "thermal runaway," potentially leading to an explosion or fire. Therefore, aviation regulations strictly control the transportation of power banks and similar battery-powered devices on planes.
Why do power banks need to be with your carry-on baggage and not your checked luggage?
The lithium-ion batteries that are typically in power banks can pose fire risks. If a battery happens to fail or overheat and catch fire in the cabin, it can be swiftly and safely dealt with by the flight crew. However, if it were in the checked luggage hold, this could lead to serious, undetected problems. Hence, for safety reasons, power banks are restricted to carry-on baggage.
Can you use a power bank on a plane?
Use of power banks during the flight is typically allowed, but always check the specific airline’s rules and regulations.