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Why airlines don t allow power bank?

Power banks, also known as portable chargers or battery packs, have become an essential travel accessory for many air travelers. However, most major airlines prohibit passengers from packing loose lithium batteries or power banks in checked luggage. Many also restrict power banks in carry-on bags. So why don’t airlines allow power banks on flights?

Safety Concerns Over Lithium Batteries

The main reason airlines ban power banks is due to safety concerns over lithium batteries. Lithium batteries power most modern consumer electronics, including smartphones, tablets, and power banks. But lithium batteries can short circuit and overheat, leading to fires or explosions. This poses a potential risk on an aircraft.

There have been several incidents where malfunctioning lithium batteries in cargo shipments have caused fires on planes. Back in 2010, UPS Airlines Flight 6 experienced a cargo fire due to lithium batteries which caused extensive damage to the plane. Fortunately, no one was injured. Since then, restrictions were placed on lithium battery transport by air to prevent similar occurrences.

Regulations on Lithium Battery Transport

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) banned lithium ion batteries as cargo on passenger planes. Airlines and other aircraft operators must follow strict regulations for lithium battery shipments established by the DOT and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

These regulations limit batteries over a certain size and power rating from air transport and require proper packaging and labeling of lithium battery shipments. Restrictions apply to both lithium-ion and lithium metal types of batteries. Power banks typically contain lithium-ion batteries.

Concerns Over Loose Batteries in Luggage

Airlines are concerned about the fire and explosion risk from loose lithium batteries packed in checked baggage. If batteries get jostled around and damaged, they can short circuit. This can potentially lead to overheating and fire.

A fire in the cargo hold is extremely dangerous and poses a significant safety risk to the aircraft and passengers. Fires on planes have to be quickly contained. Having loose lithium batteries in checked bags makes containing a fire more difficult compared to having them in carry-on bags.

Restrictions on Power Banks as Carry-On

Many major airlines also prohibit power banks over a certain capacity, usually 100Wh, as carry-on baggage. For example, United Airlines only allows power banks up to 100Wh in carry-on but bans them from checked bags.

Larger capacity power banks contain more lithium battery cells, so a malfunction can release more heat and pose a greater fire risk. Limiting power bank capacity reduces that risk. The 100Wh threshold is based on regulations for carrying battery-powered devices on planes.

What Does 100Wh Capacity Mean?

Wh or Watt-hours is a measure of battery energy capacity. To find the Watt-hour rating of a power bank:

  • Multiply the mAh (milliamp-hour) capacity by the voltage
  • Divide the result by 1000 to convert to Wh

For example, a 10,000mAh power bank with 5V equals:

10,000 (mAh) x 5 (V) / 1000 = 50Wh

So a 50Wh capacity power bank is allowed as carry-on by airlines, but a 200Wh power bank exceeds the 100Wh limit.

Why 100Wh Limit?

A 100Wh battery limit for lithium-ion batteries is set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which establishes airline safety standards globally. This 100Wh threshold is considered a reasonable compromise between mitigating fire risk and allowing passengers to carry everyday electronic devices.

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets typically have battery capacities well below 100Wh, so they aren’t affected by the 100Wh carry-on limit. But higher capacity power banks do exceed this limit.

Spare Batteries Have Separate Restrictions

It’s not just power banks that fall under airline lithium battery restrictions. Spare lithium batteries for electronics are also prohibited in checked luggage and have limitations for carry-on.

You can bring spare lithium batteries for a device in carry-on, but the batteries must be installed in the device or protected in a case. Loose lithium batteries are not allowed. This prevents short circuits if the bare batteries contact metal objects.

Checked baggage gets jostled a lot, so loose lithium batteries pose a substantial fire risk. Spare batteries must remain in carry-on bags for safety.

Lithium Content Limits for Loose Batteries

There are also limits on the lithium content of loose lithium-ion batteries carried on board:

  • 8 grams lithium content for lithium-ion batteries
  • 1 gram lithium content for lithium metal batteries

This restricts the maximum lithium content allowed in a carry-on spare battery. Power banks built into a case stay below these lithium limits.

Summary of Airline Power Bank Rules

To summarize power bank airline rules:

  • Power banks with lithium batteries are prohibited in checked luggage
  • Power banks up to 100Wh capacity are allowed in carry-on
  • Power banks over 100Wh capacity are banned from carry-on
  • Spare lithium batteries must be in carry-on, protected in a case or installed in a device

These regulations apply to all major U.S. airlines and many international carriers due to FAA and ICAO policies. The bans are in place to minimize fire risks from lithium battery issues in flight.

Tips for Flying with a Power Bank

Here are some tips for flying with your power bank:

1. Know the Capacity

Check your power bank’s capacity to see if it adheres to the 100Wh carry-on limit imposed by most airlines. The capacity may be printed on the power bank’s label. If not, look up the mAh and voltage online to calculate the Wh rating.

2. Only Pack in Carry-On

Make sure to pack your power bank in your carry-on bag, not checked luggage. This rule applies no matter what the capacity is.

3. Prepare for Airport Screening

Power banks may need to be removed from bags and examined separately during airport security screening. So keep your power bank easily accessible in a carry-on pocket.

4. Bring Charging Cables

Don’t forget to pack charging cables to use with your power bank during the flight. Standard USB cables are allowed.

5. Check Airline Rules

Some airlines may have slightly different power bank policies, so check your airline’s website when planning travel.

6. Charge Devices at Airport

Fully charge your phone, tablet, and power bank before leaving for the airport. This helps ensure you have enough battery to last the entire flight if unable to use your power bank onboard.

Using a Power Bank Inflight

For flights allowing power banks in carry-on, you can use a power bank during the flight to recharge your electronic devices. But there are some usage restrictions to be aware of:

  • Wait until reaching cruising altitude before using
  • Stow battery when landing
  • Follow crew instructions
  • No batteries charging during taxi or takeoff
  • Don’t charge batteries unattended

Make sure to follow all flight attendant guidance regarding when you can use your power bank inflight. They may require power banks to be stored in overhead bins rather than on your lap or seat.

Charging is only permitted during cruising flight, not while taxiing or taking off. Never leave lithium batteries charging in the cabin unattended.

FAA Regulations

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides the following guidance on bringing power banks onto flights:

  • Power banks containing lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries are prohibited in checked baggage
  • Carry-on power banks must not exceed 100Wh capacity
  • Spare lithium batteries must be in carry-on and protected from damage

These regulations are based on U.S. hazardous materials transportation statutes along with safety recommendations from organizations like ICAO and IATA.

DOT Lithium Battery Air Transport Rules

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), establishes regulations for air cargo shipments of lithium batteries.

These include classification, packaging, hazard communication, operational controls, training, and security plan requirements. Airlines must adhere to PHMSA lithium battery shipping rules.

ICAO Lithium Battery Standards

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has published standards for lithium battery air transport based on extensive risk assessments. These include:

  • Limiting lithium content based on cathode material
  • 100Wh capacity limit for lithium-ion batteries
  • Banning lithium metal batteries on passenger aircraft

ICAO standards form the basis for many nations’ regulations on carrying lithium batteries by air.

International Airline Power Bank Policies

The ICAO and IATA have established international standards for transporting lithium batteries by air which many global airlines follow. However, some foreign carriers may have different power bank policies.

Canadian Airlines

Air Canada only allows carry-on power banks up to 100Wh capacity which must undergo screening. Power banks are prohibited in checked bags. These rules follow Transport Canada’s guidance aligning with ICAO and IATA standards.

UK Airlines

For travel within the UK, British airlines including British Airways allow power banks up to 100Wh in carry-on baggage but ban them from hold luggage. This matches UK aviation authority regulations.

Emirates (UAE)

Emirates permits carry-on power banks on flights up to 100Wh capacity as per UAE General Civil Aviation Authority regulations based on ICAO standards. Power banks cannot be checked-in.

Qantas and Virgin Australia (Australia)

On Qantas and Virgin Australia, passengers can only bring small portable electronic devices powered by batteries not exceeding 160Wh for carry-on. Higher capacity power banks are restricted to checked baggage but cannot exceed 300Wh.

Exceptions for Medical Devices

While commercial power banks face capacity limits for air travel, certain battery-powered medical devices may receive exemptions. Some key points:

  • Portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) allowed on all flights
  • Other medical devices may require airline approval
  • Spare lithium batteries must be in carry-on
  • Batteries over 300Wh need DOT exception
  • Documentation of medical need may be required

Always contact your airline prior to travel to arrange use of a large battery-powered medical device on a flight for proper handling.

Future Changes Possible

Aviation regulations concerning lithium battery transportation are frequently reviewed by agencies like the ICAO and IATA. As technology changes, restrictions may be amended to balance security and functionality.

For example, new types of lithium batteries with enhanced containment to reduce fire risks could eventually prompt changes to limits on capacities allowed on aircraft. But currently, policies remain stringent regarding battery capacities and configuration.

Travelers should always check updated airline rules on devices containing lithium batteries before flying. Power bank policies may evolve along with battery tech and risk assessments.

Key Takeaways

  • Airlines prohibit power banks in checked luggage due to lithium battery fire risk
  • Carry-on power banks limited to 100Wh capacity on most flights
  • Regulations aim to balance safety and usability based on battery studies
  • Always check specific airline policies before traveling
  • Future updates to limits possible as battery tech advances


In summary, airlines restrict power banks due to legitimate concerns over the potential fire and explosion dangers of lithium batteries in flight. However, passengers can still safely utilize portable power banks in carry-on luggage within certain limitations by following regulations and airline policies.

Understanding the reasons for power bank restrictions can help travelers abide by the rules to enhance safety while still allowing use of these essential devices during air travel when permitted inflight. Carry-on power banks below 100Wh give passengers the ability to recharge devices without endangering airline safety based on current battery technologies.