Is It Safe to Put a Laptop in Checked Luggage?

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Laptops with removable and non-removable batteries are allowed inside checked luggage, however, it might not be the safest option.

In this article, we’ll discuss the safest locations and methods to pack your laptop in checked luggage or carry-on and what you should look out for at the airport.

Are You Allowed to Put Laptops in Checked Baggage?

The simple answer to this question is yes – most airlines allow laptops in checked luggage. However, it’s important to note that spare laptop batteries aren’t allowed – only the original one that’s inside the laptop. When packed in checked luggage, the laptop always has to be in a switched-off state and closed, so it couldn’t accidentally turn on, overheat, and cause a fire. It’s also important to protect the laptop with a padded case to prevent it from getting damaged during the flight.

IATA and FAA limit laptops and other portable electronic devices to 160 watt-hours, and ones between 100-160 watt-hours require additional airline approval. So far, pretty much all laptops are below this limit, but in the near future, this could cause issues, because Apple's 2021 16-Inch MacBook Pro has a battery of 99.6 watt-hours, so it’s just below the limit of requiring airline approval.

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Packing Your Laptop in Checked Luggage

Just because you’re allowed to pack your laptop in checked baggage doesn’t mean that it’s recommended. There are several reasons why putting your laptop in checked baggage might not be the wisest decision. Packing your laptop in checked baggage may cause it to suffer minor or severe damages due to the rough handling of luggage and the stacking of bags over one another in cargo holds.

There’s also a possibility that your laptop disappears from your luggage since more people, some of which can be thieves, have easier access to the checked luggage. Moreover, passengers often have a hard time immediately receiving all their checked baggage right after a flight, as some bags do temporarily or permanently get lost. All in all, it’s highly recommended that you don’t pack your laptop in checked baggage to minimize all these risks and pack them in your carry-on instead.

Where You Should Be Packing Your Laptop Instead

It’s suggested that you pack your laptop in a padded laptop bag that fits within your carry-on or personal item. By doing this, you can keep your laptop close to you during the flight and have it in an easily accessible location, under the seat in front of you, and use it throughout the flight to watch movies or get some extra work done. You can also utilize the extra space in the bag to carry other electronic essentials such as your hard drive, earphones, mouse, or cooling pad.

Just keep in mind that if you have a 17-inch laptop, you most likely won’t be able to fit it in your personal item because it’s too large. Instead, you’ll have to pack it in your carry-on. Some suitcases come with a padded laptop pocket, but if it doesn’t you should ideally buy one separately.

It’s also important to note that when packed in hand luggage, laptops have to be charged and placed in an easily-accessible place. That’s because the security agents are authorized to ask you to turn your laptop on to prove that it isn’t defective. In addition to that, laptops have to be taken out of your hand luggage and placed in a separate bin to get a better image from the x-ray screening machines.

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Statistics: How Often Do Things Get Stolen From Checked Luggage

As airports have cameras installed in multiple locations, it’s pretty challenging for thieves to access your luggage. However, even with the high-security levels of airports, some thieves (usually ones involved in baggage handling or luggage inspection) still find ways to get away with stealing items from the checked luggage or even taking the luggage altogether. This is why it’s always advised that you keep your most precious belongings in your personal carry-on luggage.

The department of transportation reported over 640,000 checked bags that were mishandled in the first quarter of 2022. This means that around seven bags out of every 1000 are marked as lost or stolen.

Tip: Put Your Laptop in a Laptop Bag or Sleeve in Case It Gets Force Checked

Sometimes the airline might ask you to force-check your hand luggage, due to various reasons. This could be either because your carry-on or personal item is too large or they’ve simply run out of space in the cabin for any more hand luggage. In case that happens, you should be prepared to check your bag in.

Just make sure to remove all the expensive and fragile items from it first and place them in your personal item, like your laptop. If it’s already in a padded laptop sleeve then you won’t need to worry about placing it under your front seat

Read Next: Can You Bring Desktop Computers in Checked and Hand Luggage?

Other Things That You Need to Know About Traveling With Laptops

As mentioned earlier, packing your laptop in carry-on luggage is safer than checked baggage as it’s not handled as gently and may cause your laptop irreversible damage. However, unexpected situations may arise during your trip, which makes traveling with a laptop risky regardless of where you choose to pack it.

Therefore, it’s recommended that you back up all your important files in an external hard drive or cloud storage to prevent any data loss before your flight. Investing in a quality and protective laptop bag with proper padding is also recommended.

Another essential investment worth mentioning is packing a universal adapter, like the World Travel Adapter Kit with power surge protectors. Every country has different sockets, so a universal adapter will help you keep your laptop charged regardless of what country you’re in.

Read Next: Do They Check Hard Drives at Airports?

Final Words

In conclusion, while you’re allowed to pack your laptop in checked luggage, it’s always advised to keep it in your carry-on luggage to minimize the risk of it getting damaged. Other important precautions worth taking include backing up all your data, deleting any sensitive information, and logging out of important sites that can be used against you in the case that your laptop gets lost or stolen.

Plus, remember that the Security agents are authorized to look at your computer for copyrighted content. However, they won’t be able to access anything if it’s password protected, so always set a password for your laptop and in case the security agents ask you to enter it, you can just say that you forgot it.

Read next: Can you fly with a laptop?

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