From toys and souvenirs to watches headphones and laptops, magnets are contained in many popular items that you might want to fly with.
But you may have heard that you can’t bring magnets on a plane.
While you can’t bring powerful magnets with a strong magnetic field onto a plane, you can pack common items that contain magnets, like toys and fridge souvenirs, in both your carry on and checked bags.
The magnets contained in these items are very weak, so won’t interfere with aircraft or security in any way.
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Magnets You Can’t Bring on a Plane
The FAA and IATA (International Air Transport Association) define strong magnets as those that:
- Have a magnetic field of greater than 0.00525 gauss measured at 15 feet from any surface of package (FAA).
- Have a field strength of more than 0.00525 gauss at 7 feet away from a package (IATA).
In the latter case, it is then designated as a hazardous material.
These type of magnets are found inside industrial equipment and contain neodymium magnets that are among the strongest magnets in the world.
While neodymium magnets can also be found in common items like in the clasps on handbags and jewelry, duvet covers, and fridge magnets, the magnetic material is so small, that it’s fine to fly with them.
In short, strong rare earth magnets like neodymium magnets (with the exception of those found in common items), industrial magnets, and magnetic assemblies are not allowed on a plane.
As airlines follow TSA regulations, you will find that regardless of who you’re flying with, the same rules will apply.
So, regardless if you’re flying with Delta, American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue, or any other U.S. or international airline domestically or internationally, the rules stated by the FAA and IATA above will apply.
Magnets Won’t Set Off the Airport Metal Detector
While metal detectors at airports can detect magnets and magnetic materials, they are programmed and designed to be less sensitive to their detection.
This is because so many items that passengers fly with contain magnets that they would constantly be setting off the metal detector.
So unless, you are trying to bring an item that contains a powerful magnet through airport security, you are unlikely to set it off.
How Magnets Can Affect Aircraft Systems
The reason why there is a restriction for bringing strong magnets on a plane is due to the possibility of them interfering with aircraft systems, especially navigational equipment.
Planes use inertial reference systems that can contain magnetic sensors (magnetometers) that can be affected by strong magnets and cause heading errors.
How to Measure the Strength of a Magnet
As mentioned, you will be totally fine to bring any common item that contains magnets on a plane, but for other items, it would be wise to measure the strength of their magnetic force.
You can do this by using a milligauss reader, which would be especially helpful for measuring the reading at different distances, as this is how the FAA and IATA determine whether a magnet will be prohibited or not.
You can also a compass to see if your magnet produces a magnetic compass deflection of more than 2 degrees. If yes, you should leave it at home.
How to Bring Powerful Magnets on a Plane
If you want to bring powerful magnets on a plane, you need to weaken their magnetic fields.
This can be achieved through shielding and placing the magnet in a high permeability container to contain its magnetic field.
Examples are by using cardboard shredding, a steel lined box, or padding.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).