Checked Bag Regulations - Can You Put Your Laptop in a Checked Bag?

Nowadays, it’s become common to bring electronic devices during a flight. Whether you are going on a business trip or a getaway holiday, you would want to have a portable device by your side, perhaps a laptop or smartphone.

Some have these devices for mere entertainment, while others use them as working tools. In any way, they have been considered everyday items available in passengers’ baggage.

While bringing phones along is pretty easy, things may go differently for laptops. Most passengers want their hand baggage as light as possible, and some laptops just don’t fit the size limit.

Therefore, some think of storing them somewhere in the checked baggage. However, a laptop is a complicated metal device that may pose a potential risk to the plane. They will need to fulfil some requirements to be transported. 

Things may sound complicated but worry not because CabinZero has got you covered. This article summarises the essential points to help you get a stress-free trip.

We will provide everything from plane regulations for electronic devices to where to put your laptop in the checked bag and, finally, some questions regarding plane transportation.

Can You Bring A Laptop In A Checked Bag? - Your Question Answered

Valuable items should be kept in your handbags. Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash

The answer to this question is yes - you can bring a laptop in your checked baggage. Having said that, it is not very much recommended.

Risks Of Putting Laptop In A Check Baggage

There are several reasons why packing your laptop in checked baggage might not be a good idea. Putting your laptop in a checked bag can cause it to get damaged from the rough baggage handling and the stacking of bags over one another.

Putting your laptop, a valuable item, in checked baggage also means a higher chance of its disappearance. Despite the high-security levels of airports, some thieves still manage to get away with stolen items from checked baggage.

In addition, many cases of lost baggage have been reported due to jam-packed space at the airport. Therefore, airlines often advise their customers to keep precious belongings in their carry-on baggage.

Important Rules For Transporting Laptop On The Plane

It’s important to note that spare laptop batteries are prohibited, and only the original one inside the laptop is allowed.

Passengers need to ensure the laptop stays switched off and will not accidentally turn on in any way. Past records teach us one thing: one fire spark is enough to create a tragedy.

According to IATA (The International Air Transport Association) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), each passenger can bring up to two spare lithium batteries (101-160 Wh) with airline approvals. This covers spare lithium metal and spare rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for personal electronics, plus external battery chargers.

>> Check out: What is not allowed in your carry-on bag per TSA?

Tips And Tricks To Transport Your Laptop In The Hold Safely

There may be unprecedented risks that cause light to severe damage to your device. Here are some tips and tricks to protect your laptop during air transportation.

Where To Put Your Laptop Instead

It’s recommended to put your laptop in a padded laptop bag that fits within the personal carry-on bag. This way, you can place your laptop in an easily accessible location and keep an eye on it.

Put it under the seat in front of you, and you can enjoy watching movies or getting some sleep throughout the flight worry-free.

Invest In A High-Quality Protective Case Or Sleeve

You want to add another layer of protection to your precious device, especially when they are in the cargo hold. For extra measure, make sure the device is well padded from all sides.

You should also consider using an electronics organiser. These are handy for storing your laptop charger and cords. It’s best to pack the chargers separately to save any hassle you may have during the security check-in.

A laptop should come with a padded sleeve for extra protection. Photo by Oliur on Unsplash

Backup All Your Data In Case The Worst Thing Happen

Let’s face it, things won’t always go as expected. Your laptop may get damaged or stolen during transportation. You should back up all your data into an external hard drive or on the cloud just in case.

What To Do When Your Laptop Is Lost In Transit

Losing a laptop during transit is not a rare case. It’s important to be calm in these situations. Once finding out the bags are missing, passengers should follow these steps to get their belongings back:

  1. Find the counter of the airline that operated your flight.
  2. Inform the agent about your missing baggage.
  3. File a missing baggage report.
  4. Check your airline’s policy for compensation.

Airline Baggage Regulations - Things You Need To Know

We set aside this section to assist passengers in understanding airline regulations regarding electronic devices. This shall help you spend less time and effort preparing phrases and build a more pleasant trip.

Read further to get a hold of standard terms available in baggage restrictions and reliable sources where you can find related information.

What Is A Checked Baggage?

Passengers will encounter this phrase occasionally while making an online booking or checking in at the airport. Then what exactly is checked baggage?

The checked bag should be kept and delivered by its owner. Photo by Rui Silvestre on Unsplash

It is the baggage that should be delivered to the airline during the check-in session and stored in an area separate from the passenger compartment.

Checked baggage can be transported on the plane or in the cargo hold, depending on its weight and quantity limits. There are specific rules for checked baggage that customers must comply with to ensure their items are acceptable onboard.

The baggage allowances might vary depending on your travel class and travel pack. In addition, customers who wish to have additional baggage space pay some extra cost.

>> Read more: Can You Bring Toothpaste in Your Luggage on a Plane?

General Checked Baggage Rules

According to international aviation regulations, each bag should not exceed 23 kilograms (50 pounds). The rule is set to maintain airport workers' health and avoid the transportation system's malfunction. However, for most EU and US airlines, the maximum weight for one checked baggage is around 32 kilograms (70 pounds).

Any bag that weighs more than the set limit will be labelled as "heavy/overweight/excess baggage". This means you will be charged an extra fee on top of the standard baggage rate.

Most airlines also have a maximum weight limit between 70 and 80 pounds (32 and 36 kilograms). If your baggage weight goes beyond this number, it won't be accepted onboard, even for an extra fee.

>> Check out: Can You Bring A Razor On A Plane?

The TSA Regulation for Electronic Items

Depending on your destination and airline, the rules regarding electronic devices may vary slightly. In this section, we have sorted out the key points of the flight regulations presented by the TSA.

According to the TSA, many electronics can be included in your checked baggage. This ranges from small devices (cellphones, cameras, watches) to more oversized items (laptops, coffee machines, microwaves, etc.). This section mainly covers the objects that require special treatment and are under restriction or entirely prohibited.

Most portable electronic devices can stay onboard. Photo by AltumCode on Unsplash

Most electronic devices containing batteries are allowed both in carry-on and checked baggage. Customers can bring cell phones, smartphones, electronic games, tablets, computers, cameras, calculators, etc.

General airline regulations suggest that all portable electronic devices are put in your carry-on baggage. If you need to put them in a checked bag, you must ensure these devices are completely turned off and not in sleep or hibernate mode.

The majority of airlines advise their customers to carry devices using lithium metal or lithium-ion batteries in hand baggage whenever possible.

This helps reduce the risk of explosion and fire incidents and prevents the devices from getting scratched or broken during transportation.

Suppose you must put lithium batteries powered devices in checked baggage. In that case, they need to be powered off and protected in a strong case or container.

If the electronics can generate extreme heat, the heating elements, such as the battery, must be separated, so they don’t cause smoke and fire.

Passengers must not put spare lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries in a checked bag under any circumstance. These items and electronic smoking devices are strictly prohibited from the baggage compartment.

They must be placed in a carry-on bag instead. When you enter the departure gate or at the check-in counter, remove the spare lithium batteries and keep them in your personal bag for the rest of your flight.

Outdated and damaged batteries or battery-powered devices shall be kept from the aircraft environment. Customers should not carry them on board, either in carry-on or checked baggage, since they have a high chance of creating sparks or overheating.

If you bring these objects aboard, make sure to remove the batteries or contact airline staff for further guidance.

For additional information about batteries-powered devices, check out the FAA’s guidelines on this matter.

What Not To Pack In A Checked Baggage

To ensure the safety of passengers and the plane, you should check with your airlines to understand what to bring and not to bring in your checked baggage.

Customers should also be aware that dangerous or inappropriate items will be removed from the baggage and won’t be returned to their owners.

The awkward situations can be simply avoided by creating an item checklist that applies to any other flight. In case you want to know more, we have summarised and written down some items that should be avoided in your checked bag.

Electronic cigarettes and vapes are prohibited in checked baggage. Photo by Vaporesso on Unsplash

Under no circumstances should electronic cigarettes/vapes, spare batteries, and portable power banks be placed in your checked baggage. This is because they contain lithium batteries, the common factor leading to smoke and fire incidents on a plane.

Besides the devices mentioned above, these items may be forbidden or restricted to ensure safe transport by air:

- Compressed gases (butane oxygen, liquid nitrogen, aqualung cylinders, etc.)

- Corrosives (acids, alkalis, mercury, etc.)

- Explosives, munitions, flares, and ammunition (handguns, fireworks,  pistol caps, etc.)

- Flammable liquids and solids (lighters, paints, matches, etc.)

- Oxidising materials

- Poisonous and infectious substances

- Sharp objects (knives, scissors, army knives, etc.)

- Weapons

- Items/substances capable of emitting offensive odour (e.g., organic food)

If you want more information, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has a comprehensive list of items posing security concerns:

>> May be you also like: Things You Should Always Wear On A Plane for Maximum Comfort

Can You Take Two Laptops In Your Carry-on?

According to TSA, you can bring multiple laptops in your carry on. However, remember to put them in seperate bins when going through the security. As always, avoid putting them in checked bags due to batteries. And check with the airline you are flying with to be sure.

Pack Safe With Your Laptop For A Hassle-Free Trip 

To pack or not to pack in checked baggage? That is the question. In conclusion, you can bring a laptop to your checked baggage, but it’s not ideal. The best option is to put it in your carry-on bags with a protective case to minimise the risk of damage or theft. Remember that the best trip happens when your belongings remain intact.

Thu Bui

1 comment

  • Jean F Nutini

    For the first time since I have owned a laptop I decided to pack it in my checked baggage. When I arrived in Quito, Ecuador on April 2nd, 2024 and unpacked that evening I found that my laptop was missing! I have spent A LOT of time on the phone with AA, TSA and Quito airport. They informed me at the Quito airport that in order to establish a claim, I would have had to open my bag AT THE AIRPORT, and discovered the missing laptop there. I ask, how many people open their bags before leaving the airport???

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