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I have just read through 32 pages of luggage instructions by Air France and magnets are not mentioned at all. But the page says that the list is not complete. It does not say where to find the rest.

I seem to remember that magnets used to be shown on those check-in counters, together with fire-arms and other forbidden items. Have not had a chance to check a check-in-counter recently because was not traveling. And I seem to remember that back in 2015 I tried (inside checked luggage) and was asked to remove. So I am puzzled why in 2020 Air France does list exotic things like blood but does not mention magnets on their website.

I have four heavy-duty magnets for welding purposes (to hold steel parts in place) which can lift several kilos of steel. And two lesser magnets to lift petanque balls from the ground for sports, they can lift only one kilo. If I put all that inside my luggage, in the center, you cannot feel anything, when testing with a light-weight metal probe. Will it still make a modern airplane go off course?

Since I cannot send magnets from Germany overseas by parcel (so they are dangerous, or what), and since I travel for work overseas, I would like to bring my magnets inside my checked luggage.

Any experience or knowledge about traveling with magnets on airplanes or links to a special web-site? I came here and found over 1000 questions re allowed luggage items, but no magnets so far. Thank you.

update: it is now Oct 24, I have still not managed to get Air France on the phone, because I have to do this after work, for example now I am free, but they are closed; I have not given up on this question

update: November 19, 2020 I am presently on the phone with Air France, at last, after 25 minutes of ghastly music. The customer service agent told me that she never had a question about magnets for years; I had to switch over to English to clearly establish what I needed to know. I am now being put on hold - same music - while research is happening...

  • If the magnet is strong enough then I would expect that a first problem you may encounter is disruption of the automated luggage conveyor systems in the airports. Some of those are already fragile enough as they are... – jcaron Oct 22 at 13:40
  • I just searched their web site for aimant without luck so if it is hidden there it is remarkably well hidden. – mdewey Oct 22 at 14:16
  • Have you tried to see if it deflects a compass? That 25mm rare earth magnet significantly deflects the needle at 20-30cm. You can put ferromagnetic "keepers" on magnets to help confine the field lines. – Spehro Pefhany Oct 22 at 18:31
  • @SpehroPefhany Good idea, but no I have not. I am traveling and far away from my home and my tools. No compass here at our guest-place. I have purchased those magnets in Europe and am getting ready to travel home to Africa. I want to take those magnets home to where I often weld furniture and play petanque. – Martin Zaske Oct 24 at 18:16
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+500

After a 41 minutes long phone call with the official Air France information hotline (+49 69 2999 3772) and near the end of that call, after a long wait, while a supervisor was doing research, I received an oral answer:

"Nowhere in Air France internal documentation household-size magnets are listed as prohibited luggage. So in conclusion such magnets are presently allowed!" Today is November 19 in 2020.

I then pointed out that on the check-in-counters of certain airports I have noticed permanent stickers with symbols of prohibited items like fire-arms, fire-works and magnets. But the hotline agent told me that those are generic prohibitions and presently Air France does not object to my travel with two house-hold magnets (for playing petanques and able to lift about half a kilo of steel).

I have not insisted an answer about my heavy duty magnets for welding because such might be considered industrial matter and might be beyond the scope of a regular hotline.

The kind person offered me on request a written confirmation, to be packed with our magnets. (This is an exception, granted, because I had an exceptionally long waiting time on the phone.)

So I will pack those magnets very well (will read some more) and will place copies of the mail from the hotline directly with the magnets and also with my ticket. I will then report here after our flight on how it went.

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    Thanks for returning to share what you learned! – lambshaanxy Nov 20 at 14:33
  • We will soon take the trip, mentioned in my question above. Depending on what we experience, I will give "the tick" to @lambshaanxy (if they still refuse the small magnets). Otherwise on further trips I will try my remaining magnets. Remember that we will be sitting on those planes too, this is not about "testing the limits of safety" it is rather "can we travel with reasonable household items"? And do we need to order a sea-freight box, just for five welding magnets? I will not give the tick to my own answer until several more travels (we go only every few years, so patience needed). – Martin Zaske yesterday
  • Please accept your own answer, it's based on experience instead of theory! – lambshaanxy yesterday
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A commercial airliner is not going to "go off course" because of magnets, because they use GPS and many other means (VOR, inertial navigation, etc) to plot and stay on course. However, they can still cause interference with both aircraft systems and potentially other passengers' belongings, since eg. hard disks can be sensitive to magnets.

IATA's regulations state that for regular cargo, the magnetic field should be less than 5.25 milligauss at a distance of 7 feet. This is not very much, and in fact is so low that it can be hard to measure, but this blog from a magnet company has some ideas.

Note that Air France may have their own regulations on top of this, so the safest course is to call them up and ask. If you can get through to the cargo department, they can probably advise what's possible and how to pack it, since just chucking them in your suitcase is probably not going to cut it.

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  • And of course, Martin should remember to come back and post an answer to Travel.SE :) – JonathanReez Oct 22 at 6:12
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    @JonathanReez Yes, will do. At present they cancelled the first leg of our trip and messed up the booking, so I cannot even print my ticket. So I know that to "call them up" will mean listening to a lot of very ugly music. I am on some other stack exchange sites and am trying to behave and give feedback. – Martin Zaske Oct 22 at 6:32
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    The airplanes uses the magnets. GPS do not provide heading, ev. GPS provides course. And it is very important to distinguish both. And pilots should check that the magnetic compass and the other compass display the same directions. Else it is a defect and airplane may not flight (because magnetic compass is considered an emergency equipment, in case of power failure). – Giacomo Catenazzi Oct 22 at 10:12
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    Also buried in that blog (in different articles) are hints about mitigating field strength through the use of packing strategies and shielding material (both which act to guide the flux lines physically closer to the magnets). If your raw field strength exceeds the IATA limitations then that is something else to look into, although personally I'd be doing that from the start just be really safe. I'd also bet that the people on the physics SE would love to tackle a real world problem such as this. – Peter M Oct 22 at 14:03
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    @PeterM, GPS can provide both location and velocity from a single measurement: the fancy GPS calculations to get location, and measuring the Doppler shift of the signals to get velocity. Cheap consumer units don't do this because they're cheap, but aviation-grade units certainly can. – Mark Oct 22 at 20:04

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