Some things that are banned from checked luggage are fairly self-explanatory. Like fireworks, or an improvised explosive device.
But then there are items you might not think twice about leaving in your suitcase – only to end up having them confiscated by New Zealand’s Aviation Security Service (AvSec).
One of those items is Apple AirPods, as Stuff audio division executive producer of news content Jono Williams found on a recent domestic flight.
Williams decided to check his bag in Queenstown, forgetting the wireless earbuds were inside.
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When he went to collect his bag in Auckland, it emerged on the carousel with an “Aviation Security” sticker on it.
“I assumed my bag had broken or something, and they were telling me ‘your bag is damaged’. I picked it up and thought ‘that’s really weird, it seems fine’.”
However, when he went to open it, inside was a form informing him a “dangerous item” had been removed, referring to the AirPods and its charging case.
Williams said while he was aware you couldn’t put a power bank into a checked bag, he didn’t realise AirPods fell within the same category.
“It literally didn’t cross my mind they wouldn’t be allowed in the checked bag.”
He had contacted AvSec to find out how to recover them, and been told he would need to send a self-addressed courier bag to Queenstown within seven days.
AvSec said this year it has removed more than 130,000 items from passenger luggage that didn’t meet airlines’ conditions of carriage.
AvSec operations group manager Karen Urwin said batteries were “by far” the most-removed item. In January 2021, new rules around batteries came into effect which mean any type of loose batteries are not allowed in carry-on luggage. They must be individually protected by being in their original retail packaging or “sealed” in a way that prevents the two ends from connecting, such as taping over them.
Other commonly removed items from carry-on bags were “sharps” – knives, blades, scissors, pocket-knives, multi-tools and box cutters – and lighters. Passengers were allowed one lighter on their person, with any additional lighters found in carry-on bags to be removed.
AirPods and hearing aid chargers were commonly removed from checked bags, as they used lithium batteries. But these could be put in carry-on bags.
E-cigarettes were another item that should only be packed in a carry-on bag, due to the risk it contained a battery. It was difficult to tell the difference between those with a built-in battery and those where the battery had been removed, AvSec said.
“Our advice to passengers would be to check their bags before they pack them for anything already in there,” Urwin said.
“A common explanation for the offending item is that the passenger was unaware it was in their bag at all.”
An AvSec spokesperson added if people wanted to try to get their items back that have been removed from their luggage, they would need to contact the airline as items were removed on behalf of airlines.