While not long ago, it was possible to smoke on a plane and thus use lighters on an aircraft freely, those days are (thankfully) long gone. As such, you obviously aren’t going to light up a cigarette mid-flight.
However, you might want to have a source of fire – whether a lighter or matches – with you so that you can smoke after you land.
Even though I don’t smoke, some people around me do, and so I decided to take a look at what the rules around taking lighters and matches onboard an aircraft are.
Can You Bring a Lighter on a Plane?
First, let’s start with looking at what you need to know before taking a lighter onboard an aircraft. We’ll look at the regulations both in the United States and some other countries, as well as at some airline specific rules.
In the US, the regulations and rules are a little convoluted. The U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) has created different stipulations for both carry-on lighters and checked luggage lighters. They’re as follows:
- Lighters in carry-on luggage: It is possible to carry one butane or zippo lighter on your own person or in your carry-on luggage. Quite obviously, lighters (just like any other items) that are made to look like a firearm are prohibited regardless of their type or usage. The key thing to note here is that whether you decide to carry the lighter in your pocket or in your bag, you CANNOT move it around or take it out of your pocket during the flight.
- Lighters in checked luggage: If you are a collector or need to carry more than one lighter for some other reason, then fear not – you can carry up to two additional lighters in your checked luggage. However, keep in mind that these lighters have to be packed in DOT-approved cases. While some well-known lighter manufacturers such as Zippo and Colibri make their own approved cases, they can be fairly difficult to come by.
Now that we have covered lighters, what about fuel and refills?
Many people carry a stash of lighter fuel with them to avoid continually purchasing new disposable lighters when they inevitably run out. In case of air travel, though, this is much more straightforward than the lighter situation – it’s a simple and unequivocal NO.
Lighter fuel and refills are strictly prohibited in both carry-on luggage and checked luggage.
In short, the US DOT regulations at the time of writing this article are as follows:
- Lighters in carry-on luggage: Up to one lighter either in your bag or in your pocket
- Lighters in checked luggage: Up to two lighters sealed in approved DOT bags
- Fuel and refills: Strictly Prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage
Also, keep in mind that while the above are the official regulations, airlines may have additional restrictions. Just as an example, while Delta Air Lines and American Airlines follow the standard US regulations, if you depart on an international flight with the airlines below among others, your “lighter allowance” will be restricted:
- Singapore Airlines: All lighters prohibited
- Emirates: All lighters prohibited
- Virgin Atlantic: Lighters with a blue flame and cigar lighters prohibited
- Etihad Airways: All lighters prohibited
- Qatar Airways: Can carry one lighter only in your pocket in a sealed bag
As such, before arriving at the airport with a lighter, make sure you follow not only the US DOT regulations but also your airline’s restrictions – which you can often find out on the airline’s website or by calling.
The Rest of the World
The above represents the situation in the US. But what about other countries?
Generally, within the European Union, the consensus is that a person can carry one lighter in their pocket, but not in their hand luggage or checked luggage. On the other hand, in China, for example, both lighters and matches are strictly prohibited.
While I can’t list all countries here, below is a short selection:
- United Kingdom: Can carry one lighter only in your pocket in a sealed bag
- France: Can carry one lighter only in your pocket in a sealed bag
- Germany: Can carry one lighter only in your pocket in a sealed bag
- Spain: Can carry one lighter only in your pocket in a sealed bag
- China: Lighters and matches are strictly prohibited
- Japan: Can carry one lighter, lighters in checked luggage are prohibited
- Russia: Can carry one disposable lighter per person
- Canada: Disposable and non-torch lighters are permitted in carry-on luggage
Just as mentioned in the previous section, though, it is always advisable to check with your airline and airport before going through security. Usually, you will find a photo board or written list that shows all prohibited items . If you are unsure, simply ask one of the security staff or call the airline or airport ahead of time.
Can You Bring Matches on a Plane?
So we’ve established the situation with lighters, but what about matches? Can you bring a box of matches onto a plane? If so, what are the rules?
First, we should note that there are two different types of matches:
- Friction matches: They are still widely used and contain phosphorus sesquisulfide. They are called friction matches as all that is required to ignite them is friction. For the same reason, they’re also known as strike-anywhere matches. They are considered to be the more dangerous of the two as they can ignite in a number of different situations.
- Safety matches: This type of match uses red phosphorous instead which isn’t prone to combust in the same manner as phosphorus sesquisulfide. The matches need to be lit by striking on a specific surface and so they are safer and more stable.
Generally, traditional friction matches that use phosphorus sesquisulfide are prohibited on planes, but many airlines allow safety matches onboard.
The following is a list of some major airlines and their stance on matches onboard their aircraft:
- British Airways: One small pack of safety matches allowed
- Singapore Airlines: All matches including safety matches prohibited
- Emirates: All matches including safety matches prohibited
- Lufthansa: Safety matches allowed
- Etihad Airways: All matches including safety matches prohibited
- Virgin Atlantic: Safety matches allowed
- Delta Airlines: One small pack of safety matches allowed
- American Airlines: One book of safety matches allowed
As you can see, just as with lighters, whether or not you can take matches on an airline flight depends on the airline you are flying (as well as the local regulations). Because of that, take the above as the general guideline, but make sure to check with your airline or the airport you are departing from for a reliable answer.
In most cases, you should be OK taking one standard lighter or a small pack of safety matches with you onboard an aircraft – especially on your person or in a carry on bag.
However, as you can see above, the regulations vary both depending on the country you are departing from as well as the airline you are flying with. As such, always make sure to check with your departure airport and the airline you’re flying before you show up at the airport with your light.