Last Updated on April 15, 2020
Most commonly passengers travel with their laptops in their hand luggage and their laptop counts as their personal item.
But can you pack a laptop in checked luggage?
This post has all the advice you need about flying with a laptop.
TSA Laptop Rules
It’s a myth that you can’t pack a laptop in hold bags. Laptops are allowed in checked luggage. Despite lithium batteries being banned from hold luggage, you can put a laptop in a checked bag. Here is the relevant screengrab from the TSA website:
You can’t pack battery banks, or laptop chargers than have an inbuilt battery in hold baggage.
You can’t legitimately pack any spare laptop batteries in your hold luggage. And the TSA officers will always have the final decision about what is permitted inside your suitcase whether it’s carry-on or checked.
Dangers Of Flying With A Laptop
But just because it’s not prohibited should you pack your laptop in your checked bag?
In a word… no!
For a start, the FAA don’t really want you to do it, which is why there is forever talk about laptops being banned from checked bags for safety reasons.
Here is a quote from the FAA who are responsible for aircraft safety:
Devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be carried in carry-on baggage when possible.
So the FAA suggests packing all smart phones, laptops, and electronic devices in hand luggage where possible.
It makes sense to pack any device with a lithium battery in hand luggage because all lithium batteries are a fire risk.
Check out this video of a laptop catching fire. You can see how quickly things escalate. Now imagine that this happens inside the cargo hold of the aircraft where nobody is around to extinguish the flames. There could be serious consequences.
Laptop fires are rare which is why laptops are not banned from hold luggage yet. If you do check your laptop then make sure it is turned off and there is no way that it could be switched on by accident.
Does the airport check your checked luggage?
Yes, your checked luggage is scanned by an x-ray machine just like your carry-on bag is scanned. Security officers may open your bag to inspect the contents. Your laptop hard drive won’t be damaged by the x-ray scan.
It’s not unknown for items to mysteriously disappear from checked luggage and this is another reason why it’s smarter to pack your laptop in hand luggage.
Laptops are valuable and TSA security officers, baggage handlers, and yes, thieves, have better access to steal your laptop from checked luggage.
Also, checked bags sometimes get lost. You might arrive at your destination but your checked bag and your laptop might not be there to meet you. If you don’t want to risk losing your laptop then don’t pack it in your checked bag.
Note: Flying From Middle Eastern Countries
From March 2017 until July 2017 laptops were banned by the department of homeland security from the cabin on flights from the middle east. This ban has now been lifted.
The Word On The “Street”
Let’s see what the chatter is around flying with laptops in checked luggage:
Sinnabelle was pretty unhappy about how her laptop was handled by American Airlines when her carry-on suitcase was force checked. It’s an argument for keeping your laptop in a laptop case that can slide under the seat as a personal item.
Claire’s touchpad got a nasty crack after her flight with Delta.
Rich realised putting his laptop in checked luggage was a huge mistake…
But only after it was too late!
Lucie’s laptop and $50 mysteriously disappeared from her checked case and the TSA left a note to say they’d been in there…
It doesn’t mean the TSA stole it but it wouldn’t have happened if Lucie had taken her laptop as a carry on.
Another airline, another checked bag, another damaged laptop.
We bet Dan wishes he never packed his laptops in checked luggage now.
All airlines have horror stories about damaged laptops in checked luggage. Alexandra has her laptop broken and jewelry stolen from checked luggage.
You can put a laptop in checked luggage but you almost always shouldn’t.
It’s safer for a start, there is less risk of fire if your laptop is in the cabin.
And if your laptop is valuable just remember there is a chance you might never see it again or that when you do see it it might have a smashed screen.
We strongly advise packing laptops in carry-on bags. You can usually use your personal item allowance to slide your laptop under your seat.
Why not get one step ahead and download some entertainment to watch on the plane on your laptop! The best place for your laptop to be during a flight is on your lap helping you watch a movie and pass the time.
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