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 a lot of 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 – How many laptops can you bring, which ones are banned, where should you pack them, how should you 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 the recalled models on all airlines operating within the U.S.
Although most airlines banned only the recalled model, Virgin Australia banned all Macbook models, regardless of the issue date and type.
So now, the situation is as follows: You can take any laptops on planes, except for the recalled Macbook, which is banned on most airlines. And you have to be extra careful about packing other Macbook models, which are banned on a few airlines, like Virgin Australia.
How Many Laptops Can You Take on a Plane?
There is no limit on how many laptops you can bring on a plane. We found countless debates on various online forums, and nobody seems to be completely sure.
But here’s the deal. There is nothing about multiple laptops posted on the TSA’s (Transport Security Administration) website. Similar to how there isn’t anything posted about how many clothes you may bring. It’s pretty safe to assume that you can bring any amount of clothes or laptops.
Here’s the only instance where we found the TSA mentioning something about multiple laptops. On Twitter, they said that multiple laptops can be carried on board, but have to be placed in separate bins prior to screening.
You can take two laptops in your carry-on. They must be removed and placed in two separate bins, prior to screening.
— AskTSA (@AskTSA) August 10, 2016
However, there’s still one thing you should keep in mind. Bringing one, two, or three laptops for personal use is completely fine. But when you start bringing several new laptops to other countries, you might run into issues with the customs.
The customs duty differs between countries, and on average, you’ll be required to pay 10-40% import duty when arriving with multiple laptops that aren’t intended for personal use. The customs officers might ask you to provide proof of purchase, to 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 be asked to pay 15-30% customs duty if you’re bringing more than one laptop.
Recommended article: What is Smart Luggage? Are Smart Bags Banned? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Can You Pack Laptops in Checked Luggage?
Although a lot of sources say that laptops are banned from checked luggage, most of the times they’re wrong.
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 restrict from packing inside checked bags. That said, any spare batteries inside checked luggage aren’t allowed. Also, the 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., and other countries have different regulators, and some of them have banned laptops from checked baggage. So make sure to re-confirm with that specific country or airline when flying internationally.
Going Through the Airport Security With Laptops
Laptops are allowed, but there are a few things you should know before going through the customs with one.
First of all, you should know that when you’re going through the security, your laptop has to 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 have to be placed in separate bins.
However, if you have a TSA-approved bag with a laptop pocket, you won’t have to remove the laptop out of the bag. That’s because these dedicated laptop sleeves don’t have any pockets and zippers to obstruct the x-ray image. Personally, I use the Matein 15.6-inch Laptop Backpack as my personal item, and I’ve never had to remove the laptop when going through the security.
If you’ve packed multiple laptops inside your bag and you’re pre-checked, generally you shouldn’t remove them from your backpack and put them inside separate bins. However, sometimes they’ll ask you to do that anyway. It heavily depends on the current TSA agent. 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 assistants approval first, you could get in trouble, because of bomb threats.
Another important thing is that you should always charge your laptop before going through security. That’s because 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 even if you can’t answer simple questions about your laptop, they’re allowed to confiscate your laptop. In fact, the same applies to ALL electronics, so make sure always to bring them fully charged.
Should You Pack Laptops Inside a Carry-On, Personal Item, or Checked Luggage?
Although you potentially can pack laptops inside checked luggage, we’d advise against doing that. Quite commonly valuables get stolen from checked bags, stuff gets damaged, and sometimes the checked bags get lost. Because laptops aren’t cheap, a smarter choice would be to pack them inside hand luggage.
Personally, I always pack my laptop inside my personal item, the Matein 15.6-inch Laptop Backpack. The reasoning is simple. I always work during flights, so having my laptop under the front seat, instead of in the overhead compartment is much more effortless. I hate when someone sitting next to me passes me by and starts digging through their suitcase in the upper compartment while standing 1-inch from my face. I’m sure other people do too, so always pack 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.
P.S. In another article, I’ve shared my 75 most essential packing tips. If you’re in need of some packing advice, check them out!
Can You Bring a Personal Computer (Desktop) on a Plane?
Desktops or PC’s (Personal Computers) are allowed both in checked luggage and carry-ons. That’s because they don’t have any batteries, so essentially, they’re just electronic components, which aren’t too 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 get damaged there.
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 personal computer.
Monitors aren’t usually too 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 them inside checked luggage while making sure they’re safely protected from damages.
Traveling with laptops and personal computers can be stressful. But if you follow the general guidelines, you should be fine.
Make sure always to pack your laptop inside your hand luggage, keep the battery in, have it fully charged, and be prepared to remove it during security.
Multiple laptops for personal use are allowed, but you shouldn’t bring dozens of laptops. Otherwise, they won’t be classified for personal use, and you’ll have to pay the customs duty.