Another reason to bring mobile chargers on international trips

A year ago my phone died during the return trip from Manila. Due to insane delays in customs I wasn’t able to charge my phoneJackery Mini before my connecting flight, and just assumed I would be able to charge it on the flight home. Despite recent flights on many planes with plugs, this particular flight had none and the Home Warrior had to wait until I was in my car to hear that I had made it back to the States. Since then I have traveled with a mobile charger everywhere.

Today, TSA gave me another reason to bring a mobile charger on every trip. According to USA Today, on flights coming into the US there will be a chance of additional screening. Part of this could include being asked to turn on your electronic devices, and if your phone or laptop won’t turn on it won’t be permitted on the flight. That’s right, if your phone or laptop has a dead battery you can’t bring it with you on the plane.

(For a minute, let’s talk about how ridiculously stupid this is. It makes one wonder if anyone at the TSA actually travels. Or works on a laptop. Or uses a phone, ever. Sometimes you forget your car charger, or maybe your flight was delayed, or maybe your battery is old and won’t hold a charge. Will they even give you a chance to plug in your device and let it charge for a moment before determining that it’s some sort of bomb? Haven’t the electronic devices been X-rayed? I can just imagine the business traveler explaining to their boss that they need a new laptop because the battery died in the old one and they had to leave it at a foreign airport. Seriously, I can’t see the rationale behind this AT ALL. If you do, please enlighten me.)

Since I can’t fix this ridiculous policy, here is how I recommend working around it. First, do your best to charge your devices at every opportunity. Bring a mobile charger that will power phones, tablets, and eReaders. Finally, make sure your computer battery will hold a charge. If you travel internationally frequently it may be worth it to invest in a spare battery. Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s better than abandoning your laptop.

Readers, what are your thoughts about this new policy?


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  1. I disagree. I don’t know what kind of “information” prompted this, and those of us who travel a lot know that TSA can be…a little sloppy…at times, but it is what it is. If bringing a little aluminum box of wires and batteries that won’t turn on creates enough suspicion (which, when you think about it I guess it could), then so be it. This doesn’t feel like the long arm of the law is overreaching into my life, and it certainly doesn’t sound ridiculous to me. The burden should lie with individual to ensure that they are prepared to meet whatever standards are set forth (within reason). It’s become so easy to blame the other entity and not take personal responsibility for the consequences we encounter.

  2. @Garrett I see what you’re saying, but I just feel like there hasn’t been a lot of thought put into the real-world implications. At best, travelers don’t have much control over travel–between delays, wait times, and existing regulations. Combine that with tight company budgets and you have a recipe for a lot of issues.

  3. This used to be required in some airports a good while back (before 9/11). It always introduced more delays to the security check time. I can only imagine the amount of time this will add onto the security check lines.

  4. Just more security theater to sit through. It won’t make us any safer.

    I brought a mobile charger on my last international trip, only to have it confiscated by Chinese security when flying out of Beijing! They don’t seem to like lithium batteries.

  5. I work for DOS. The reasons behind this seemingly silly new requirement is due to credible chatter of a sophisticated type of explosive that is near impossible to detect. It is thought that the cell phone will not power up until commanded and that will be the catalyst to mix the components of the explosives chemicals. A cell phone that will not power up on its own= potential bomb.

  6. This isn’t an unreasonable requirement. Guns have been disguised as cell phones for years (see Snopes). I could certainly see a cell phone or laptop shell holding high density explosives such as C4. I’m not sure if what it looks like in the scanner – would it look the same as a battery?
    The solution is easy – have your device powered on during security. Most people already do that with their phones and don’t want to turn them off. Just ask any FA!
    If your device is totally drained then it is a trickier problem. You’ll have to find a wall charger to plug it in. But how many times does that really happen?
    In short, it is a bit of a hassle because we now have to display electronics that aren’t laptops. But in many airports TSA was already demanding it.

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