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Earlier this year when in America I bought a Nexus 7 tablet and brought it with me to Argentina. The tablet stopped working shortly after arrival and nothing I tried to do made it work. By chance I'm flying again to the US, where I'll be able to give the tablet back under warranty. However, the TSA doesn't seem to allow you to bring uncharged or not working electronics on some flights.

Does this restriction apply to the carry-on luggage of all international flights? Is there anywhere I can check this?

If so, does the TSA let you bring electronics in the checked-in baggage?

Passing electronics and other expensive things through the Argentine border is nearly guaranteed to get them stolen, but this may be the only way to bring it to the United States.

  • TSA won't be screening you in Argentina. They only enter the picture if you have to clear security in the US. – Flimzy Oct 29 '14 at 13:06
  • @Flimzy I will rephrase my comment: the TSA regulation states that passengers flying from or to the selected destination will be checked. So far these destinations include USA and UK. By this definition the OP will be screened in Argentina. – JoErNanO Oct 29 '14 at 14:45
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    @Flimzy Maybe I'll be able to leave Argentina with a broken tablet, but unless I can fix it on the plane I doubt that would be very useful if I can't enter the US. – Martín Fixman Oct 29 '14 at 15:16
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    @MartínFixman: TSA doesn't screen you when you enter the US. Only when you board a plane in the US. – Flimzy Oct 29 '14 at 15:44
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    @Flimzy I think there is way too much uncertainty around this rule and it's implementation. I read here that both airports and airlines responsible for checks. And here it says that checks will occur at both pre-duty-free-security and pre-boarding. – JoErNanO Oct 29 '14 at 16:36
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+50

The TSA Restriction

The restriction you mentioned does not apply to all flights towards all destinations. It is a new rule which is slowly being implemented across continents. If I am not mistaken the US were the first, followed by UK. I could not find any official reference covering the status by country. All I stumbled upon were local online newspaper articles for US and UK.

EDIT: I found a bit more information on this regulation. It might be helpful. BBC says that the TSA delegated both airports and airlines to carry out the necessary security checks:

But airlines and airports are obliged to meet security standards set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to carry on operating non-stop flights.

Moreover, it seems the regulation will be enforced by the UK, France and Germany:

The UK, France and Germany have all said they would comply with the American demands.

Finally the it is unclear where the checks will be carried out. I think it is safe to assume that checks could be carried out both at the security checks held before entering the international area of the airport, as well as just before boarding. The latter making more sense IMHO because anything can happen between security screening and boarding.

Checks will be carried out at London's Heathrow both at passport control and boarding gates, while a spokeswoman for Manchester Airport told the BBC that device power checks would only be done by airline staff at departure gates.

So basically the rule becomes bring a charged device.

Either Check-it In of Leave-it Home

In your case you will probably have to check-in the device when flying out of Argentina into the US and you should have no problem on the way back to Argentina. (This is also because supposedly the device will be in full working order then, and charged.)

Checking-In Luggage Safety

You could try covering it up with (dirty) clothes and burying it deep inside your luggage so as to make it the last available item for potential thieves. If you are worried about it being x-rayed and then stolen you could try wrapping it up in aluminium foil, or you could put it in a lead bag, like those used for protecting photorgraphic film. However I do not know what happens in that case -- since the content of the bag is not visible from the x-ray your bag might just win a manual search. And if the security officer is handsy and really needs your device, well...

Ok for completeness sake you can also film wrap your check-in luggage with those services you find in airports. I would imagine that items packaged this way tend to be less of a target for thefts. Moreover you would be insured, but do check the details of the contract for that.

You could also consider buying a pelican case or similar for added protection.

Finally you can add padlocks and other locking devices to your suitcase to make it safer.

All of this does not consider the problems you might incur in with local customs, but I'll leave that for another question. :)

  • How will they check that every device brought on board is charged? Almost every passenger has a device of some kind (phone, tablet, laptop, kindle, mp3 player, etc.) It would be impossible to check that every device of every passenger is charged. I myself travel with a cell phone, mp3 player, Kindle, laptop, ecigarrette and ecig charger and camera. – MikeV Oct 30 '14 at 22:25
  • I somewhat agree with you it's sounds crazy. But if the check is done at security screening then they will know exactly how many devices you are carrying since you'll have to empty your pockets in the x ray machine. If it's done at boarding time then I'm assuming your bags and pockets will be checked. Anyhow it's not sci fi, the regulation is being enforced in UK and USA. :) – JoErNanO Oct 31 '14 at 19:56
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    wow... well, I suppose I will have to go through that on my next trip through Heathrow this December. It must be new because my last time at Heathrow was two months ago and they didn't check to see that my electronics were charged. God, I hate those interminable lines and now they will be worse. :-/ – MikeV Oct 31 '14 at 20:03
  • Yup you'll definitely have to go through this. Make sure you consider the delay this might cause when gong to the airport next time. I can obviously predict that security checks will get longer. And check BA's website as they must explain this somewhere. – JoErNanO Oct 31 '14 at 20:42
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    In my experience having taken multiple international flights since the new regulations they do not check every passenger but rather do "random" checks of a small number of passengers. This is the same as the existing random detailed hand luggage searches you routinely find carried out at major international airports. I would guess that some people might be more likely to trigger a search e.g. those carrying large numbers of devices but having not been searched can't do anything more than speculate – RobV Nov 3 '14 at 16:12

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