TSA: Electronics Must Be Charged for Flights to U.S. and for Some Domestic Travelers

According to the TSA, if you’ll be flying from an overseas airport to the U.S. and plan to take a smartphone, a laptop or tablet, be sure it is charged or at least has some power so you can turn it on and prove it’s an iPad and not an explosive device. If you cannot do this, plan to board without the electronic device.

Later, the TSA amended this to include some U.S. airports but FareCompare has confirmed that only a very small number of travelers on domestic flights will get the additional scrutiny. As the Los Angeles Times put it, the new security measures “will primarily target passengers on a federal terrorism ‘watch list’.” Indeed, federal sources went to great pains to stress that these measures will affect very few travelers within the U.S.

LISTEN: So what if your device is dead? FareCompare’s Rick Seaney has some ideas.

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New Security Measures

This is the latest in what the professionals call enhanced airport security measures in the wake of last week’s announcement about possible overseas threats. Here’s what you need to know.

Random device checks: Not every passenger will be asked to prove a device works, but you can’t count on avoiding these checks.

This does not apply to domestic travelers, but: But charge your devices anyway. Any security measure can be applied randomly so it’s possible passengers flying within the U.S. might face this additional screening.

If your device is not charged: Apparently you will not be allowed to fly with it. [It might be possible to dismantle the device to prove it’s exactly what it appears to be to the  satisfaction of security, but that is speculation on our part.]

What you should do: Tips for travelers who may be faced with this extra security screening but these are smart things to do for anyone getting on a plane.

  • Charge your device the night before departure.
  • Bring extra batteries.
  • Bring charger cords. Consider a portable charger.
  • Bring a pre-paid mailing envelop with you – just in case you’re told you can’t bring your device.

Why the Extra Security

Several news organizations including CNN are reporting that the electronic device screening is an update to security measures “aimed at combating potential new threats from terrorists in the Middle East and Europe.”

We know that bombs and weaponry have been hidden in unusual places in the past. The Christmas Day Underwear Bomber tried but failed to bring down a plane that was landing at Detroit International in 2009; he got the underwear nickname because that’s where he hid his explosives (brought down by fellow passengers, he is now serving life in prison). This month, the TSA found a knife concealed in a passenger’s shoe – also at the Detroit airport – and he was quickly arrested.


Updated: August 29, 2017