Your cell phone is a vital part of every day, and even more important when traveling. Nowadays, boarding passes, identification documents, and itineraries can all be stored on your phone. While convenient, this means that you often can’t even make it through the airport with a dead phone.
Despite strong improvements in technology, it’s still easy to drain your phone battery. If you’re at your flight gate with 20% battery asking yourself “can you charge your phone on a plane?” you’ve come to the right place. This post will break down everything you need to know, from rules, to safety risks, to available charging options to alleviate worries before your long flight.
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Are You Allowed to Charge Your Phone on an Airplane?
It’s true that the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Aviation Administration regulate the usage of cell phones while onboard airplanes. However, there are no rules enforced whatsoever about using or charging a cell phone that is on airplane mode. The rules are only concerned with the network interference that cellular data causes, not the mobile devices themselves.
You can charge your phone at any point during taxi, takeoff, or landing. You can also charge laptops and other devices at any point too, although you can’t use larger devices until you’re at cruising altitude. These rules apply to all domestic flights within the United States, and the vast majority of international flights.
These rules are not up to individual airlines, and the majority of American airlines abide by them equally. So whether you fly with Delta Airlines, United Airlines, or another carrier, the same rules will apply.
Are There Outlets on a Plane?
These days, most airplanes are equipped with charging ports. Depending on the plane, these may be either USB outlets, AC power outlets, or a combination of both.
While USB ports are handy for charging phones and other small devices, there’s no denying that AC electrical outlets are preferable. This is because electrical outlets can be used to charge any device, including laptops and cell phones. USB charging ports are only useful for cell phones and other small devices.
The good news is that electrical outlets are becoming increasingly common on airplanes. We haven’t been on a flight in years that hasn’t had at least one electrical outlet per seat.
This isn’t just for premium seats in first class, either! We always fly main cabin or economy, and we’ve never had an issue charging out mobile phones.
While most airlines how have outlets or USB ports onboard, not all do. Budget airlines, like Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines, and Spirit Airlines, tend to skimp on the outlets. Here is a breakdown of outlet availability on some of the biggest airlines in the United States:
- Alaska Airlines: Outlets or USB ports at some (but not all) seats
- American Airlines: Outlets or USB ports at almost every seat.
- Delta Airlines: Outlets or USB ports at every seat
- Frontier Airlines: No outlets
- Hawaiian Airlines: Outlets or USB ports in every row
- JetBlue: Outlets or USB ports at some (but not all) seats
- Southwest Airlines: No outlets or USB ports on most flights, but the airline plans to install them on all existing planes soon
- Spirit Airlines: No outlets
- United Airlines: Outlets or USB ports at almost every seat
- Virgin America: Outlets at every seat.
Can You Bring a Portable Charger on a Plane?
Portable charging devices are allowed to be brought onto airplanes as long as they are in your personal item or carry-on baggage. Lithium-ion batteries aren’t allowed to be stowed in checked baggage, and putting a portable power bank in your checked bag will likely cause it to be left behind.
While it may seem annoying, this is for legitimate safety reasons. Lithium batteries pose safety risks in the hull of the airplane. This is why they’re required to be packed in your hand luggage and kept in the main cabin of the airplane.
Airport security will require you to remove any portable chargers from your hand baggage for the security check, but they will not confiscate them. Just like how TSA requires passengers to remove all personal electronic devices from their bags, they also require portable chargers and battery packs to be removed. I recommend storing them in your backpack or personal item instead of your carry-on luggage so that they are easier to remove for the security screening.
Portable Charger Wattage Restriction on Flights
Most airlines restrict passengers from bringing portable chargers with more than 100Wh, or watt hours. Depending on the particular airline you fly with, the watt hour limit might be higher or lower. Some airlines have limits as high as 160Wh.
A portable charger’s Wh amount will be written somewhere on one of its sides. Most portable chargers that only have USB connections will have a capacity of less than 160 Wh.
While airlines have rules regarding the capacity of the power banks, the truth is that these rules are rarely enforced. I have never had a portable charger examined by a flight attendant.
Best Portable Chargers and Power Banks for Long-Haul Flights
Packing a portable charger is always a good idea when traveling. You never know when you will need one! Even if your plane is equipped with power outlets, there is always a chance that they may not work. In the worst of cases, a portable charger can even save lives in the event of a plane crash.
Investing in a good power bank doesn’t take much. They can be as cheap as $20 on Amazon, and the technology has gotten really good in recent years. Here are a few portable chargers that we recommend looking into before your next flight.
1. Anker PowerCore Slim Portable Charger
2. Anker 321 MagGo Wireless Portable Charger
3. Rasbes Solar Charger
4. iWalk Small Portable Charger
5. Apple MagSafe Battery Pack
Thanks for reading my post answering the question “can you charge your cell phone on a plane. Hopefully, this post answered any questions you have about using cell phones while flying. If you have any questions or thoughts, drop a comment below.