Can You Use A Laptop On A Plane?

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • You are permitted to bring a laptop through the airport security checkpoint but it must be placed in a separate tray for screening
  • You can use your laptop on a plane mid-flight but use is prohibited during takeoff and landing
  • Smaller electronic devices such as a phone, small tablet, or kindle can be using during takeoff and landing
  • You will need to purchase inflight WiFi if you want to have internet access when using your laptop on the plane
  • Inflight WiFi is not available on all flights

How To Bring A Laptop Through Airport Security

According to the TSA, you are permitted to bring multiple laptops on the plane through the airport security checkpoint. Unless you have TSA PreCheck you’ll need to remove the laptop from your carry-on luggage and place it in a separate tray to go through the x-ray screening.

Many airlines allow you to bring a personal item and a laptop bag or small backpack is the ideal size to slide under the seat in front of you.

When overhead compartments are full carry-on luggage sometimes gets gate checked by flight attendants. Of course, if your laptop ends up in the luggage hold you won’t be able to use it on the plane.

We recommend packing your laptop in your personal item bag so your laptop is always with you during the flight. Even if your main carry-on bag gets gate checked at the last minute.

In the USA there are no weight limits for hand baggage so you don’t need to worry about the weight of your laptop.

But international flights on foreign airlines often have a hand luggage weight limit so make sure you check this with your airline before you head to the airport.

You can also pack a laptop in checked luggage but then it won’t be accessible to you during the flight.

Using Your Laptop On A Plane During The Flight

You are permitted to use your laptop on a plane but not during takeoff and landing.

During takeoff and landing you can use small electronic items like phones (in flight-mode) but you are not allowed to use your laptop for around the first 15 minutes of your flight and the last 15 minutes of your flight.

During takeoff and landing all large electronic devices must be safely stowed either under the seat in front of you or the overhead compartment.

There are a few reasons for this.

  • Laptops could be a safety hazard during extreme turbulence. If things got very rocky laptops could be flying through the air and could whack someone on the head.
  • If the plane needs to make an emergency landing then bulky laptops will prevent passengers from correctly assuming the brace position.
  • In the event of an emergency evacuation of the plane laptops being out will be both a distraction and an obstacle. If a plane is rapidly filling up with smoke passengers need to leave their luggage behind and get off the plane as quickly and safely as possible. Passengers worrying about their laptops during this moment could have potentially disasterous consequences.

Mid-flight it’s safe to use your laptop. Avoid a window seat if you want to minimise glare on your laptop screen.

Internet Connection For Using Your Laptop On A Plane

If your laptop has a sim card installed and a data cellular connection you must enable flight mode before you use it on a plane.

The only option to get internet access during a flight is through inflight Wi-Fi. Not all routes have WiFi services so check with your airlines.

Power outlets are not always available so charge your laptop fully before you fly.

Power banks under 100 WH can be brought on the plane so if you can charge your laptop using a power bank consider packing this.

Alternatively pack a spare battery if your laptop has a removable battery.

If you don’t want to stump up for inflight Wi-Fi then you can use laptop on the flight for working on spreadsheets or other offline activities.

If you want to use your laptop for watching movies on the flight it’s usually best to download them before flying.

If you are a Windows user then check if you can download the app for your favorite streaming service.

For example you can pre-download Netflix shows using the Windows app.

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