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Which Items are Prohibited on Commercial Airlines?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Especially in the United States, there are heavy restrictions on the types of items permitted on commercial aircraft. All airlines maintain a list of prohibited items in addition to the national list, and travelers who are uncertain about any items should contact the airline they are flying on, along with any airlines they are making connections on. People should be aware that some regional airports have tighter security surrounding these items than others as well. The most important thing for people to think about when questioning whether an item is prohibited or not is its potential use as a weapon: if it looks dangerous, it is probably not allowed.

The most obvious category of prohibited items is, of course, weapons. Explosives of any form are banned from the cabin of commercial aircraft, as are fire arms, knives, other bladed weapons, brass knuckles, rope, flares, and all martial arts weapons. Tools and sporting equipment that could be used as weapons, such as axes, baseball bats, hockey sticks, ice skates, and any sort of sticks or poles, are also banned. In addition, chemicals that could cause physical damage, health problems, or explosions are prohibited; examples include mace, pepper spray, tear gas, and bleach. Travelers should be aware that items that closely resemble prohibited ones are also banned. This includes replicas of weapons, for example.

Concerns about explosives have also led to bans on gels, liquids, and other substances that could potentially contain explosives. Exceptions to these prohibited items include bottled breast milk for people who are traveling with a child, along with liquids in amounts of 3 ounces (actually 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters) or less that are kept in clear containers. Aerosols such as spray paint are also prohibited, and asthma sufferers may want to consider bringing sealed inhalers with a doctor's note through security to avoid difficulties. Compressed gases are also banned.

Most personal care items are permitted, as long as they meet the above specifications. Travelers should be aware that any gels, creams, pastes, or liquids must be 3 ounces (or 100 ml) or less in size, and that they should be presented to security staff in clear plastic bags. Tweezers, nail files, glasses repair items, and hairbrushes are all permitted on board aircraft.

People who are disabled or take medications should make sure that all of their medications are in the original containers that clearly identify the prescription, who issued it, and the prescription holder, which should match the name on the boarding pass. They may also want to bring medical documentation of any conditions. Items such as wheelchairs and canes are not banned, but they will be screened by security staff. Because of the longer security screening for disabled passengers, travelers should plan on arriving at the airport early so that they do not miss their flights.

Airlines also have restrictions on the amount of carry-on luggage allowed. Passengers should make sure that they know the weight and size limits before they arrive at the airport, so that they do not have to shuffle things into checked luggage at the last minute. Many airlines have limited carry-on luggage to a single bag. Most items that are prohibited in carry-on luggage can be carried in checked bags, including unloaded weapons, as long as they are packed in secure containers and declared to the airline at check in. Only explosives are forbidden from all areas of aircraft.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon958725 — On Jun 29, 2014

My daughter wants me to bring Dreft baby laundry soap powders over to Belgium when I go for the birth of her baby. Can I check these three pound boxes of soap powders (six of them)? I'm not talking carry on; I mean check them.

By julies — On Oct 19, 2012

I have never heard of an airport security officer making a mother drink her breast milk just to show that it is safe. I am sure this has happened to some people but it seems a little extreme to me. If I ever have any doubt about the travel items I am taking with me, I just put them with my checked-in luggage. If all I have is carry-on luggage, I just make sure and avoid anything that will slow down going through airport security.

By John57 — On Oct 18, 2012

There have sure been a lot of changes in the airlines baggage allowance in the last few years. It seems like the policies keep changing and every airline is different.

It used to be that you could check in two bags without any fees, but now most airlines charge for any checked bags. This has caused more people to carry on their luggage which has caused problems finding room for all of it.

The last few times I have flown, they will give you the option, once you have checked in, of having your carry-on luggage put with the rest of the checked-in luggage so they have room for everything.

If I don't have anything valuable in this luggage I will go ahead and do it because it means I don't have to worry about trying to get it in the overhead bins. I am not very tall and sometimes I have trouble reaching up and squeezing my luggage in the bin, so this makes it a lot easier.

By andee — On Oct 18, 2012

@anon19304-- I don't know if they would allow pliers to be taken on the aircraft, but I would call the airlines and ask them ahead of time. That way you will know for certain and won't have to worry about it.

My husband takes hunting trips all over the place and whenever he has a question about anything, he always calls just to make sure. He has taken all of his hunting gear including unloaded weapons and bows, but these always have to be checked in and cannot be in the luggage he carries on the plane.

I think they have become more relaxed on some things lately. I know for awhile I was afraid to take fingernail clippers and razors, but have not had any problems with them lately. My husband forgot about his pocket knife last time we flew, and he was not able to take that with him on the plane.

By bagley79 — On Oct 17, 2012

@anon2971-- Wow, this would really upset me if all of my makeup was taken. Did she have this in a clear plastic bag? I always put my liquids in a plastic bag, but don't use one for my makeup and never had a problem.

I have found that some airports are more strict about the policies than others. At some airports I have to remove my liquids and put them through security in the plastic bag. At other airports they tell me I don't have to do this.

By anon124589 — On Nov 06, 2010

my daughter came down with dengue fever,and i would like to take in my suitcase,under the plane,some mosquito, repellent for a mosquito, sprayer that i also want to take. It is not gas operated, and also a starter for my car. Let me know. thank you.

By anon46924 — On Sep 30, 2009

i wish to bring some plant food to Thailand from the UK. I cannot find what I require in Thailand, mainly because of my language barrier and inability to read Thai. The basic chemicals I was accustommed in using in my UK garden are as follows; Nitro Chalk, superphos, sulphate of potash. Are any/ all of these chemicals prohibited in hold luggage if declared?

By anon19304 — On Oct 09, 2008

Are pliers, as one's used for beading allowed on commercial flights? I am going to be flying in a couple of weeks and I would like to carry-on my beading stuff to do on the plane.


By anon5404 — On Nov 24, 2007

Anything that you can spread, smear,or any powders are not allowed, unless stored in clear, plastic ziploc bags. They took my powder and hand cream because it was not in a clear, plastic ziploc.

By anon2971 — On Aug 03, 2007

Just a week ago, American Airlines took all of my sisters makeup which included: mascara, eye liner, and foundation. Mascara isn't liquid and the eye liner was in pencil form. The foundation was not liquid but a compact form.


Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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