23

In about 3 months I will be flying from Estonia (Tallinn) to New York (Newark) via Stockholm (Arlanda) by SAS. I have an Aukey 30000 mAh (~111 Wh) battery bank which I'd like to bring on board with me. I did some research and discovered that batteries over 100 Wh require approval by the airline. On my previous flight from Tallinn on British Airways I wasn't allowed to bring in the battery bank with me, and had to hand it over for storage.

I've contacted SAS customer service and they have given me approval (verbally, over the phone) to bring the battery bank on board in my carry on. They also say it's written somewhere in the booking notes, which the check-in staff would see.

However, how would the staff at airport security in Tallinn and Newark know that I'm permitted to carry it? Can they look up my booking and verify it there, or should I request a written approval from SAS to show security?

  • 6
    Was it security who stopped you before in Tallinn? – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Mar 12 at 23:22
  • 5
    This is one case where typical "optimistic" Asian nameplate ratings can lead to inconvenience. According to one test it was more like 20,000mAh. – Spehro Pefhany Mar 13 at 2:03
  • 1
    Yes it was security who stopped me. – Sandy Bridge Mar 13 at 6:47
  • Many airlines now have power outlets at many, up to all, seats, reducing the need for large carry-on batteries. Check the aircraft you are flying, you may be able to simply plug in for the flight. – CrossRoads Mar 13 at 19:15
  • 1
    I'm not worried about not having power on board, my phone can last several hours longer on aeroplane mode. I need it at my destination though. – Sandy Bridge Mar 14 at 6:08
28

In short, they don't know, but they also (usually) don't care. There are three different things at play here:

  1. Airport security, run by the TSA and its equivalents in other countries. The TSA is fine with power banks. In some airports, you're required to take power banks out of your bag, but this is just to ensure that they're not bombs or something. (Of course, large lithium batteries actually make pretty impressive incendiary devices, but apparently no terrorist has figured this out yet...)
  2. Aviation authority rules, set by the FAA and its equivalents. This one is cut and dry in the US: FAA regulations prohibit carrying portable batteries over 100 Wh, although with explicit airline permission up to 160 Wh is OK. The EU has the same regulation.
  3. Airline rules, which each airline can set for themselves. In this case, you've received permission so you're good.

In practice, what's going to happen is that your power pack will (most likely) be waved through TSA security and allowed on board by the airline. In the unlikely event of being questioned, a printout of permission from the airline would be handy, otherwise you'll need to convince them to go talk to the airline and that seems like a hassle for everybody involved.

FWIW, I always travel with a 20000 mAh power pack and I've had somebody inspect the label exactly once, and that was in Beijing, which is rather infamous for really strict and often pointless security rules. I'm somewhat surprised to hear Tallinn did the same to you, but in my experience this really is the exception rather than the rule.

Update: Much to my surprise, the FAA apparently lets airlines allow up to 160 Wh, so amended accordingly.

  • 19
    Re 1: obligatory xkcd. – fkraiem Mar 13 at 5:28
  • 5
    Since the airline does have the power to allow batteries over 100 Wh, a large chunk of the basis of this answer is invalid. – user2357112 Mar 13 at 5:32
  • 8
    As stated in my original post, they do know and do care, as I was stopped by security in Tallinn. How would I prove to them that I am approved to carry a 111 Wh battery bank? – Sandy Bridge Mar 13 at 6:49
  • 2
    Also, quoting the actual regulation: "(ii) For a lithium ion battery, the Watt-hour rating must not exceed 100 Wh. With the approval of the operator, portable electronic devices may contain lithium ion batteries exceeding 100 Wh, but not exceeding 160 Wh and no more than two individually protected lithium ion batteries each exceeding 100 Wh, but not exceeding 160 Wh, may be carried per person as spare batteries in carry-on baggage." – user2357112 Mar 13 at 8:27
  • 1
    For Tallin, as Estonia is part of the EU, the same 100/160 Wh regulation seems to apply: easa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/dfu/… – Guntram Blohm Mar 13 at 9:00
5

Since I'm new I cannot comment directly on jpatokal's post. It is not the case that the FAA bans all battery packs above 100 Wh. As their own link states, up to two batteries above 100 Wh and up to 160 Wh are permitted onboard, with airline approval. Sometimes the airline approval is just provided carte blanche; sometimes it's provided with advance permission, as in your case.

Many countries's security are lax about this and don't check the capacity of the battery. China is one of very few places where I've had a security officer examine the rating on the battery.

  • Do note that this extension to 160 does NOT cover powerbanks, is limited to specific categories of batteries mentioned: extended laptop batteries and the like. Hence the explicit language of "SPARE batteries". Powerbanks most likely don't fall into that description. – jwenting Mar 13 at 8:17
  • 3
    @jwenting: They don't have to be spares. Quoting the regulation: "(ii) For a lithium ion battery, the Watt-hour rating must not exceed 100 Wh. With the approval of the operator, portable electronic devices may contain lithium ion batteries exceeding 100 Wh, but not exceeding 160 Wh and no more than two individually protected lithium ion batteries each exceeding 100 Wh, but not exceeding 160 Wh, may be carried per person as spare batteries in carry-on baggage." – user2357112 Mar 13 at 8:36
  • 1
    This is also what I've been told by SAS, battery banks over 100 Wh are fine. My question is, as per my original post, can airport security look up my reservation to prove that I am permitted to do so? – Sandy Bridge Mar 13 at 9:05
0

China often looks at the units--and disallows not only anything that's over the limit but anything that isn't marked. (Presumably to keep people from erasing the markings and claiming it's under the limit.) Personally I have not had them inspect my battery but it's far below the limit, presumably they can see it's ok from the X-ray. I have had them find it in my checked baggage when it inadvertently got placed there instead of with my laptop where it belongs.

-3

I would be a tidbit careful. Although probably nobody will care, whatever that guy on the phone told you is a violation of IATA rules. SAS, like almost every airline, is part of IATA.

Please refer to this document on page 7 which for the battery ("battery" as defined on page 4) that you have reads Pax A/C = forbidden, where Pax A/C means "passenger, adult or child"

So there's something that some mildly uninterested bugger who probably didn't even listen properly to what you said, who doesn't care anyway, and whose name you probably didn't even write down told you on the phone. And on the other hand side, there's an official document which explicitly says the opposite.

Might work out, might not.

  • That same flowchart also says "Pax A/C = forbidden" for batteries smaller than 100 Wh. So you're interpreting its applicability wrong. – Ben Voigt Mar 13 at 14:10
  • @BenVoigt: Thank you for your input. You are of course right, indeed you are not allowed to bring power banks at all, regardless of their capacity -- my bad. Note that there is a difference between "packed with equipment" (e.g. battery inside laptop or phone, or an electric wheelchair) and "loose" batteries. Power banks are, within that same document, explicitly said to be considered spare batteries, thus they're not packed with equipment. – Damon Mar 13 at 15:48
  • 3
    And indeed, all sizes of power banks are forbidden in checked luggage, to which that IATA cargo document applies. Carry-on bags are subject to a different set of rules. Your answer is wrong because you are evaluating the SAS personnel's statement concerning a carry-on against a set of rules for checked luggage. Note in the question: ""they have given me approval (verbally, over the phone) to bring the battery bank on board in my carry on" – Ben Voigt Mar 13 at 15:54
  • 5
    Also, "Pax A/C" does not mean "passenger, adult or child". It means "Passenger Aircraft". "CAO" = "Cargo Aircraft Only". Refer to page 9 of the document you linked, which is crystal clear and avoids the abbreviations. – Ben Voigt Mar 13 at 15:55
  • 1
    The document you found is about stuff that goes in the cargo hold, and yes, large battery banks are forbidden in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft. – Mark Mar 13 at 21:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.