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Official Rules for Using Your Laptop on a Plane

Official Rules for Using Your Laptop on a Plane

The only option for your beach getaway is late July but your boss said you have to work. So while you’re packing your carry-on luggage you wonder, Can you use your laptop on a plane? We’ve all be there trying to find the best ways to weave our work responsibilities and still take advantage of travel deals.

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In today’s connected world, knowing the ins and outs of flying with your tech is as essential as packing your passport.

Let’s discuss the official rules about packing a laptop in carry-on baggage and using your personal computer miles above the ground. Whether it’s domestic flights or a long-haul international adventure, I’m here to guide you through the dos and don’ts of laptop use in the air.

From the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) guidelines to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) regulations, this post is your one-stop shop. We’ll explore everything from the X-ray screening process at the airport security checkpoint to the airplane mode protocol onboard. And for the globetrotters, we’ll touch on those international flights too, ensuring you’re clued up on different rules around the globe.

using laptop on a plane

The Official Rules: Laptop Use at 30,000 Feet

Can you use your laptop on a plane? Yes, you can use your laptop on a plane! But, as with any travel advice, there are some important things to remember. 

Clearing Security


Can you use your laptop on a plane? Absolutely, but first things first, passing the TSA checkpoint. The TSA officer might ask you to place your laptop in a separate bin during the x-ray screening. Why? Because they said so and I’m sure there is a good reason, insert eye roll. But regardless, keep your device easily accessible in your laptop bag, so you can swiftly slide it out for its own trip through the x-ray machine.

If you’re being screened in an airport that offers TSA pre-check there is no need to remove your own laptop from the laptop case or your luggage. Security procedures for TSA pre-check is significantly easier for those traveling with laptops.


While there is no federal regulation prohibiting a laptop from being packed in check-in luggage, the vast majority of airlines prohibit it. Airlines don’t want the liability of their baggage handlers being blamed for damage or theft of valuable items.

It’s a good idea to check with your airline regarding their large electronic device policy. 

FAA’s In-Flight Regulations

use your laptop on an airplane mode

Airplane Mode On, Worries Off

Once you’re up in the air, the FAA steps in with their own set of rules. Can you use your laptop on a plane during the whole flight? Not always. 

Safety comes first, and the FAA mandates personal use of laptops in airplane mode during cruising altitude only. So, before you hit the power button, make sure those wireless radio signals are off.

Airline Approval

Different Airlines, Different Rules

Can you use your laptop on a plane across all airlines? Well, it depends. Each airline has the power to set its own rules. Some may have specific laptop bans or restrictions, so it’s crucial to check with your airline before you fly. The flight attendants are your go-to onboard experts, ready to give you the thumbs up when it’s laptop time.

Battery Rules

Can you use your laptop on a plane with any battery? Not quite. Spare batteries and power banks are items you can carry on, but they come with their own set of TSA rules. Always carry spare lithium batteries in your hand baggage, not in the checked cargo hold. This not only protects your power source but also aligns with lithium battery airline safety protocols.

If you don’t think your laptop will survive the whole flight on just battery power, look under the seat for a plug-in. Be sure you have your laptop charger with you so you can extend the battery life.

Modern laptops are getting better and better about battery life so you might consider getting one of the best travel laptops to make work on the go easier.

You may also want to check out my blog on Complete Guide to Using a Cell Phone on a Plane

Laptop Use Etiquette and Safety

Coming from an entrepreneur who’s currently writing this article on a train, I totally get that work is a priority. But, at the same time I want to encourage you to be reasonable and curious when using your laptop on a plane.

laptop on a plane etiquette

Laptop Storage and Setup

Finding Your Tech-Space

Once you board, the question shifts from Can you use your laptop on a plane? to “Where can you stow it safely?” You can keep your laptop in the overhead bin or pull it out and put it in the seat back pocket for easy access once the fasten seatbelt sign goes off. If you will be in the seat pocket I highly suggest keeping it in a protective case.

Using the Laptop In-Flight

Airplane Mode: Non-Negotiable

As the plane ascends, it’s essential to switch your laptop to airplane mode. This crucial step isn’t just a suggestion—it’s a must. 

Ensuring that your device’s wireless radios are off maintains the safety of the aircraft’s navigation systems. 

Once airborne, can you use your laptop on a plane? Yes, but only when the flight crew advises that you are at cruising altitude.

Common Courtesy

Depending on the time of your flight there could be a large number of people sleeping. If you are the only person awake then the least you could do is turn the brightness of your screen all the way down. You might even consider an external light reducing screen cover. Additionally, having a keyboard cover on your laptop keyboard, especially if you have longer fingernails, will reduce the noise caused by your typing.

Using your laptop in a window seat causes additional light from the reflection. Be sure to close the window shade if you are working in the dark to reduce the chance of disturbing other passengers. This way, you ensure your personal use doesn’t intrude on the comfort of others around you.

International Skies: Laptops on Global Journeys

Laptop Use on International Flights

Embarking on an international flight often begs the question: Can you use your laptop on a plane when crossing time zones and oceans? The good news is, in most cases, yes. However, international flights may have stricter rules due to varying security measures or different airline policies. Always double-check with the airline for their specific regulations—this is an important thing to remember.

working on an international flight

Airline-Specific Laptop Policies

When you’re 35,000 feet above international waters, can you use your laptop on a plane can often depend on the carrier. British Airways might differ from American Airlines, and what’s allowed on Saudi Arabia’s flights might not fly with United States carriers. So, before you pack that laptop backpack, make sure to do a quick review of your airline’s guidelines.

Tech Regulations by Country

Can you use your laptop on a plane without considering the destination’s tech laws? Not quite. Some countries have unique restrictions on electronic devices, such as spare lithium-ion batteries and portable electronic devices

Be aware that customs may require you to declare your laptop, especially if it’s a new computer, to assess for import duty. It is highly unlikely that you will be assed any fees unless you are bringing in a number of laptops, but new electronics do raise some red flags.

Thank you for flying with us through this guide on how to fly with your laptop. 

Happy travels, and here’s to many more adventures with your laptop by your side!

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FAQ: Can You Use Your Laptop On A Plane


  • Veronica Hanson

    Veronica Hanson blogs from whatever country she happens to be in at the time, currently she's hanging out in Japan. She's been living as a nomad remote entrepreneur with her family since 2020.

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  1. JARLOX NS says:

    Comment: This guide offers some useful tips for using laptops on planes, especially regarding common courtesy and airline-specific policies.

    Question: Have you ever encountered any unexpected challenges or restrictions while using your laptop on an international flight?