All About TSA Battery Rules

By Leah Rendon

How to pack batteries and what to leave behind when you travel by air

All About TSA Battery Rules

From laptops powered by lithium, to digital cameras running on AA batteries, some electronic devices are essential items for modern travelers. Although they may seem harmless, batteries can actually pose a severe threat to the safety of an aircraft and should be packed and handled with the utmost care. Get familiar with the guidelines put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration and enforced by the Transportation Security Administration before flying the friendly skies with batteries in tow.

TSA’s rules for non-lithium batteries

Dry-cell alkaline batteries, such as AA, AAA, C or D batteries, and rechargeable dry-cell batteries are allowed in checked or carry-on bags either as spares or when installed in devices. When metal objects come into contact with a battery’s terminal, extreme heat and sparks can start a fire. As a result, keep spare batteries in their original packaging, make sure loose batteries are packed securely or place tape over the terminals in order to prevent a potential fire.

Nonspillable wet batteries or gel-cell batteries found in small electronics and limited to 12 volts and 100 watt hours per battery are also allowed in checked or carry-on bags. Passengers are limited to two spare batteries, which must be secured in sturdy packaging and marked with the words “nonspillable batteries.”

Flying with lithium batteries

Installed lithium batteries are allowed in carry-on bags and checked bags, but loose lithium batteries of any variety are permitted only in carry-on bags.

Consumer-sized lithium ion batteries with 100 watt hours are used in small consumer electronics, including cellphones, tablets, cameras, laptops and certain portable phone chargers. Nonrechargeable lithium metal batteries are also often found in small electronics, such as digital cameras, video cameras, watches and flashlights. Both types of lithium batteries may be found in e-cigarettes and vaporizers, which are not allowed in checked bags.

Larger lithium ion batteries with 101 to 160 watt hours are often present in extended-life laptop batteries. Passengers are limited to two of these batteries and must receive the airline’s permission to transport the batteries in either carry-on or checked bags.

Prohibited batteries

Car batteries, wet batteries or spillable batteries are prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags, but exceptions are made for batteries used as part of a scooter or a wheelchair. Spare batteries for these devices must be carefully packed by the airline itself.

Packing and other rules for batteries

Most airlines ask that passengers pack their batteries in their carry-on bags, if possible, so the crew can monitor potential fire dangers from inside the cabin. Travelers should also make certain all packed battery-powered devices are powered off during the flight as an added precautionary measure.

Airlines don’t typically limit the number of batteries passengers may carry, but all must be used for personal use and not with the intent to resell.

About the Author

A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.