Laptops are one of those things that people are hesitant to pack inside their luggage. Everyone’s seen headlines of people having problems at the airport for having electronics with lithium batteries. Laptops also have lithium batteries, so naturally, people are worried. And traveling with multiple laptops is even worse, so many people have been concerned about potential security issues at the airport.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about laptops on airplanes. We’ll discover how many laptops you can bring, which ones are banned, where you should pack them, and how you should prepare them.
Are Laptops Allowed on Airplanes?
In a few words, yes, they are, with a few exceptions. You can pack most laptops in your hand luggage without any worries. That is unless you’re an owner of an Apple Macbook.
Apple recently recalled its 15-inch Macbook laptops made between 2015 and 2017 because the lithium batteries could overheat and catch fire. Following the announcement, many airlines started banning recalled models from airplanes. Soon after, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) banned recalled models on all airlines operating within the U.S.
Although most airlines only banned the recalled model, Virgin Australia banned all Macbook models, regardless of the issue date and type. The current situation is as follows: You can take most laptops on planes, except for the recalled Macbook, which has been banned by most airlines. You also have to be extra careful about packing other banned Macbook models while using airlines such as Virgin Australia.
Best travel laptop (based on our research): Macbook Air 13-Inch
How Many Laptops Can You Take Onboard For Domestic Flights?
TSA (Transport Security Administration) doesn’t limit the number of laptops you can bring on a plane. So on domestic flights, you can have two, three, or even more laptops, and no one will bat an eye. One might think that they’d limit the number of laptops that can be brought on the plane because they contain lithium batteries. However, the TSA and FAA only limit additional spare batteries and power banks. If the lithium batteries are integrated within the electronic device, they’re usually allowed.
We found countless debates on various online forums, but nobody seems to be sure about how many laptops are allowed. Here’s the only instance where we found the TSA mentioning something about multiple laptops. On Twitter, they said that several laptops can be carried onboard but they have to be put in separate bins before the screening.
On the official TSA’s website, they haven’t mentioned anything about bringing several laptops, so it’s safe to assume that multiple laptops are allowed.
How Many Laptops Can You Take Onboard For International Flights?
On international flights, laptops are allowed in carry-on bags with no quantity limitations. However, there’s still one thing you should keep in mind. Bringing one or two laptops for personal use is completely fine. But when you start bringing more than two laptops to other countries, you might run into issues with customs at the airport.
The customs duty differs between countries, and you’ll be required to pay 10-40% import duty when arriving with multiple laptops unintended for personal use. The customs officers might ask you to provide proof of purchase so they can see that you haven’t purchased the laptops abroad. For instance, people like to buy electronics in the U.S., because they’re cheaper than in Europe. Depending on which European country you’ll be landing in, you’ll have to pay 15-30% customs duty if you’re bringing more than one laptop.
Read Next: Top 12 Best 17-Inch Laptop Backpacks in 2021
Can You Pack Laptops in Checked Luggage?
Although some sources say that laptops are banned from checked luggage, that information is wrong for the most part. FAA states that laptops with removable and non-removable batteries can be packed inside checked luggage. They’re classified under “personal electronic devices containing batteries.”
The FAA advises packing personal electronic devices with lithium batteries inside hand luggage but doesn’t have restrictions on packing them inside checked bags. That said, any spare batteries inside checked luggage aren’t allowed. Your laptop has to be turned off, protected from activation, and protected from accidental damage when packed in checked luggage.
That said, the FAA and TSA only control the U.S. Other countries have different regulations, and some of them have banned laptops from checked baggage. So make sure to re-confirm with the specific country or airline when flying internationally.
Going Through Airport Security With Laptops
There are a few things you should know before going through the customs with a laptop. Firstly, when you’re going through security, your laptop should be removed from the bag and placed inside a separate bin to go through the x-ray machine. If you’re bringing multiple laptops, they should be placed in separate bins.
However, if you have a TSA-approved bag with a laptop pocket, you shouldn’t have to remove the laptop from your bag. That’s because these dedicated laptop sleeves don’t have any pockets and zippers to obstruct the x-ray image. A member of our staff uses the Matein 15.6-inch Laptop Backpack as his personal item. He’s never been told to remove the laptop from the backpack when going through security.
If you’ve packed multiple laptops inside your bag and you’re pre-checked, you shouldn’t have to remove them from your backpack and put them inside separate bins. Though, sometimes, they’ll ask you to do that anyway. It depends heavily on the TSA agent that you get at security. What you shouldn’t do is remove the laptops from your bag without asking first. If you try to remove any electronic devices from your bag without the TSA officer’s approval first, you could get in trouble because security is always on the lookout for bomb threats.
Another important thing is that you should always charge your laptop before going through security. That reason is that the TSA agents might ask you to turn on your laptop in case they choose to do an additional inspection. If you can’t turn it on, or if you can’t even answer simple questions about your laptop, they’re allowed to confiscate it. This rule applies to ALL electronics, so make sure always to bring them fully charged.
Read next: Do They Check Hard Drives at Airports?
Should You Pack Laptops Inside A Carry-On, Personal Item, Or Checked Luggage?
Although you can pack laptops inside checked luggage, we advise against doing that. It’s common knowledge that valuables can be stolen from checked bags, or your items can get damaged, and sometimes your checked bags can get lost. Since laptops aren’t cheap, a smarter choice would be to pack them inside hand luggage.
We recommend packing your laptop inside a personal item, such as the Matein 15.6-inch Laptop Backpack. If you work during flights, you will store your laptop under the front seat instead of in the overhead compartment. It can be incredibly annoying when someone sitting next to you passes by and starts digging through their suitcase in the upper compartment. We always recommend packing your necessities inside your personal item instead of your carry-on.
Here’s another strong argument for storing your laptop inside your personal item. When the flights are overbooked, some passengers are asked to check in their carry-ons, free of charge. If you’re one of those passengers, you won’t have to re-pack your whole bag at the gate.
Tip: In another article, we’ve shared 80 essential packing tips. If you need some packing advice, you should check them out!
Can You Bring a Personal Computer (Desktop) on a Plane?
Desktops or PCs (Personal Computers) are allowed both in checked luggage and carry-ons. That’s because they don’t have any batteries, so they’re essentially just electronic components that aren’t very regulated on airplanes. If you can, you should try to bring your PC as a carry-on. That’s because valuables get stolen from checked luggage, and often things might get damaged.
We’d suggest wrapping the personal computer in bubble wrap, and possibly taking out the hard disk drive, because it’s usually the most valuable and fragile part of a PC. Monitors usually aren’t very expensive, and the expensive ones are too large to be used as carry-ons. So the best course of action would probably be to transport one inside your checked luggage to make sure it’s protected from damages.
Traveling with laptops and personal computers can be stressful. If you follow the general guidelines, you should be able to fly worry-free. Make sure that you always pack your laptop inside your hand luggage, keep the battery in, have it fully charged, and be prepared to remove it while you’re moving through security. Multiple laptops for personal use are allowed, but you shouldn’t bring dozens of laptops. Otherwise, they won’t be classified as personal use, and you’ll have to pay the customs duty.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
We get questions about bringing items on planes all the time. So, we’ve written other guides where we answer the most commonly asked questions.
You can check them out over here:
- Can You Bring Toothpaste on Planes?
- Can You Bring Umbrellas on Planes?
- Can You Bring Mini Liquor Bottles on Planes?
- Can You Bring Hairdryers, Curling Irons, and Hair Straighteners on Planes?
- Can You Bring Cologne on Planes?
- Can You Bring Plants on Planes?
- Can You Bring Knives on Planes?
- Can You Bring Chocolates on Planes?
- Can You Bring Amazon Kindles on Planes?