Travelers preparing to fly to any airport within the United States of America should have a firm understanding of the restrictions for what they can and cannot take with them on board. Once they have received clearance for travel to the U.S., tourists need to then familiarize themselves with what items are allowed to be brought onto a plane when visiting the USA. Following intelligence gathering that linked terrorist activity to the battery packs of electronic devices taken on airplanes, the United States government issued an electronics travel ban on devices larger than a cell phone in 2017 for certain airlines and routes that they deemed to be of high risk. Although the ban was lifted later that year, it’s still important to familiarize oneself with the current rules regarding what is and isn’t allowed to be carried on, as well as how those items may be used during the duration of the flight.
Since the electronics ban has been lifted, all personal electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, hand-held video game consoles, and cell phones are allowed to not only be taken on the plane but to be carried on board and used in the cabin. There are currently no restrictions regarding the transportation of these items while traveling to the United States, however, it is important to always be vigilant and obedient of the airline’s individual rules regarding not only what can be brought on board, but also when and how it is appropriate to use these items.
While personal electronic devices such as laptops, e-readers, tablets, and phones are on the list of items that are allowed to be brought onto an airplane when flying to the United States, travelers should understand that U.S. customs may be a different story. Travelers’ personal items are subject to search, including digital searches, so that is important to keep in mind when deciding which electronic devices to bring.
In addition to personal items, anything that can be deemed to be for sale is also subject to U.S. Customs, even if the item is intended for later personal use. In other words, any item that appears to be new and intact will be considered as a part of the international market and subject to additional fees or taxes. It’s best to consult all of the U.S. customs rules and regulations when packing and preparing for a trip to the United States.
The Transit and Security Administration (TSA) typically asks that any personal electronic device larger than a tablet be removed from carry-on luggage and placed in a bin for extra screening when passing through security. In order to expedite this process and to avoid holding up the line, TSA recommends that all devices that may need to be removed for screening (laptop, tablet, e-reader) be packed in an easily accessible location, at least until the security process has been finished.
Many international long-haul flights headed for the United States offer Wi-Fi on board, typically for a hefty price. However, there are some who offer a slower or reduced service at no cost. If connecting your mobile phone, laptop, tablet, or other personal electronic device is important, then it is best to consult the individual airline’s website and search for the options they offer their clients for staying connected while in flight. As is always the case, each flight’s services may be limited by mitigating factors even if they advertise Wi-Fi on that particular route. It’s best to plan ahead for any necessary arrangements once arriving in the United States in the event of an interruption in the service.
If your devices need to be charged while en route, you should again consult the individual airline’s website to find out if the plane you will be flying on and the class (economical, premium, business, first) your seat is in has a plug or not. As is always the case with international travel, be prepared with a North American socket adapter to ensure that your devices can be charged on board where available.
Also, no matter what the stated rules and regulations are regarding personal devices, the cabin staff of the airline has the final say about when and how all electronic devices can or cannot be used.