Requirements for Luggage on International Flights

The Transportation Security Administration was established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The TSA has established specific guidelines for carry-on bags and checked baggage--guidelines that apply to both domestic and international flights. You are not able to access your checked baggage any time during your flight. The standard weight limit for baggage is 50 lbs., but check with your specific international carrier to ensure that it does not have a different requirement. Countries worldwide have backed the TSA regulations, and most follow similar rules in their own airports.

  1. Locks

    • The TSA asks that international travelers either do not put locks on their checked baggage or use the approved and recognized locks, which TSA can open with a skeleton key. You can purchase these at most luggage stores and from some locksmith businesses. If TSA security officers need to open your checked baggage at any time, the approved lock will give them easy access. If your bag sets off any type of alert or alarms during screening and can't be unlocked, security agents may break it open.


    • You may pack cigarette lighters without fuel in your checked international baggage. They can be filled with fuel only if adhering to the exemption of the Department of Transportation, which permits no more than two lighters with fuel, if they are adequately contained in a DOT-approved case. You can purchase these cases from some cigarette and cigar stores, as well as through online distributors.

      If you aren't sure whether you're exempt, don't put the lighter(s) in your suitcase. You can have common lighters in your baggage, but not torch lighters. The latter form a hotter (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit), more "spikelike" flame. They're stronger than common lighters and are often used for cigars and pipes because they work at all angles. Similarly, you cannot put any safety matches in your checked baggage.

    Permitted Items

    • In addition to the normal clothes and accessories, you can pack any fragile or valuable items, such as money and jewelry. You can also pack your laptop and other types of electronics. If you put film in the checked-in baggage, it will be damaged by the screening devices. Bring all film and cameras with film with you in your carry-on baggage. You can ask for a hand inspection rather than have it go through the X-ray machine.


    • Do not gift-wrap anything that goes in your checked baggage. The item may have to be opened by a security officer. You can ship your gifts before leaving or wrap them when you get to your final destination. If you have personal items that you don't want security officers to handle, place them in see-through bags.


    • If you want to carry ammunition in your checked baggage, call the airline before leaving to determine whether it's allowed. If it is permitted, you will have declare it when checking in. If allowed, small-arms ammunition must be secured in boxes made of metal, fiber or wood that are created especially for this purpose. Ask your airline what policies or additional fees it has for firearms in checked baggage. In all cases, they cannot be loaded, and they must be put in a locked, hard-sided container. You must declare all firearms at check-in. You may also carry flare guns in your checked luggage. They cannot be loaded, and they, too, must be placed in a locked, hard-sided container and declared.


    • Under U.S. regulations for domestic travel, you are not allowed to put spare lithium batteries in your checked baggage, but you can have them in a carry-on. If you're putting any equipment in your suitcase that has batteries, make sure you place the activation switch on "off." Protect the equipment in a container or another secure way. Although this is a domestic regulation, some international airlines may follow similar criteria.

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