Know Before You Go. Uncharged Electronic Devices May Be Confiscated Flying To United States

The Department of Homeland Security and TSA have asked a number of foreign airports to prevent passengers from boarding flights with electronic devices they can’t power up.

Thanks to reader Tommy V for passing this along.  For now, this appears to just affect airpots outside the US operating nonstop service to US:

The new measures apply to some airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Passengers will have to turn on the electronic devices while being screened by security personnel to prove that the devices are harmless, the T.S.A. said Sunday. The fear is that unresponsive phones have been hollowed out and filled with explosives. It is considered next to impossible to detonate such devices at the checkpoints because they require external triggering mechanisms.

If an initial attempt fails to power up a device, passengers will be allowed to use a charger. If that fails, the devices will be confiscated. The T.S.A. said similar screening might be extended to other electronic devices like laptops and tablets. Some countries may also add security measures of their own.

It is not clear what will happen to the confiscated devices.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t really all that hard to comply with.  If security officers are going to allow you to try charging your device before confiscating it, that means the only theoretical way a device gets confiscated is if you didn’t bring a backup battery (or external battery), don’t have a power cord to charge it or the device is just plain broken.

But, it’s a good condition to note for future travel so you’re not caught off-guard.

I recall traveling through London Heathrow last year and had to transfer to T5, where British Airways calls home.  At that time, airport officials were requiring that all iPads/tablets needed to come out of your bags for screening, similar to laptops.  This isn’t the policy in the US where tablets can generally be left in your suitcase.  Even though there were signs indicating this policy it fouled up quite a few folks.

The resolution for handling a bag with an iPad or tablet in it was to empty every single item out of the bag, lay them all out flat in bins and run each item through the scanner.  Then, the security official would re-pack the bag.  This process was taking about 20-30 minutes.  I was able to observe this process first-hand because my bag got tagged for secondary screening, though not for a tablet, they felt I had too many wires in my bag.  There was one officer per scanning station and each had a backlog of about half a dozen bags.

There’s no way to know all the varied requirements across the world when you’re traveling.  I do my best to keep up on all of them and report things outside of the norm.

Safe and speedy travels!


  1. i;m sure the bad guys would never figure out to use a smaller size battery to power up the device, and use the extra space for what they are up to.

    seems like the tsa makes up this stuff without thinking it through

    1. Mike, you know I was thinking as I read the article that the battery in some laptops would have to be big enough that you could plug a smaller battery in there. Not sure how that would look on an x-Ray.

    1. Thanks for the heads up! Not saying the rule makes sense but if they believe it should be in place for international arrivals it probably should be in place for US domestic as well. That being said, it’s not like I’ve never had TSA ask me to switch on electronics before, so it’s no exactly a new policy, just likely more enforced now.

Leave a Reply