Can You Bring Matches on a Plane? Here’s the Answer

Whilst the idea of a snappy, spontaneous getaway is an appealing one, there are definitely a few things that travelers need to think about before boarding that flight.

One of those considerations is what we can and can’t take on a flight. Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most common confiscated items going through airport security: the humble match.

So here’s the question: Can you bring matches on a plane?

Safety matches

We’ve certainly come a long way from the days of being able to light up a cigarette whilst cruising through the air; however, are matches allowed at all on commercial flights? Does this extend to safety matches? Where exactly are the limits?

It’s time for us to take a closer look at the rules surrounding flying, our miniature firesticks, and everything in between.

Please note: The following has been written using the FAA and TSA guidelines for flights in the U.S. If you are traveling from or in another country, please ensure you check their guidelines for safe flight and permitted substances before check-in. 

So, can I take matches onboard?

That depends on what you mean by matches.

According to the TSA website, you are not permitted to bring strike-anywhere matches on a plane in either your carry-on or checked luggage.  

Sorry to all those match enthusiasts out there.

This is a significant restriction: whilst it might be annoying to make sure that your matchbox has been taken out of your handbag before going through security, a fire in a pressurized plane would be disastrous. These measures are in place for the safety of everyone onboard, and TSA takes them very seriously. 

Whilst usually the contraband would be confiscated and dumped with no further action, the TSA agent may make a note of your details which could affect any future flying you might do. 

Wooden matches

Can you bring matches in your checked luggage?

OK, I can’t take my regular matches in my carry-on. Can I pack them in my checked luggage instead?

Unfortunately, it’s still a no from TSA.

If a fire was caused by a match striking in a cabin, it would be incredibly dangerous. A fire igniting in the unmanned baggage hold where no one can put it out, 25.000 feet in the air? Devastating.

Keep in mind that these restrictions are for the U.S.; other countries may have different safety measures in place.

What about safety matches?

Ah yes, that old chestnut. 

A safety match is a match that won’t light unless struck against a specific surface (usually a strip on the side or back of the pack or box).

The major difference between these and strike-anywhere matches is that while SA matches can be lit from rubbing up against a shoe or semi-hard surface the wrong way, safety matches require a very specific surface to ignite. 

According to both TSA and FAA, safety matches can be taken on board. They should be in your carry-on luggage or on the person. Yay!

Cool, so I can take my safety matches in my checked luggage! How many can I take?

The FAA has decided that safety matches are okay to bring on planes in small quantities, with passengers limited to one book/pack of matches in carry-on or on the person. 

TSA concurs, stating that one book of matches may be carried on board in carry-on luggage or on your person. There’s no limit on the size of the box or book, so long as they aren’t strike-anywhere, and they are kept in your carry-on or on your person during the flight. 

https://twitter.com/iamjessbarnes/status/1407754723428605952

But what about if you’re camping? And the matches are storm-proof? And you have backpacking stoves that are empty of fuel? Great question, Grace. 

Whether it’s safety matches, camping stoves, or an empty lighter, the general rule of thumb is so long as it won’t accidentally ignite during flight, you can take it onboard.

Other considerations

So, you’ve done the right thing – your matches are in your carry-on and you’re on your way to board your plane.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re home free; sometimes there isn’t enough room in the overhead bins, or priority has been given to another passenger, and the attendant will ask you to check in your carry-on.

This isn’t too much of a problem. Simply remove them from your carry-on and put them in your pocket for the journey. 

On rare occasions, TSA may make you dump them depending on the type of match you’re carrying and if they deem them to be strike-anywhere or another hazardous type. However, most matches list clearly on their packaging whether they are safety or not, so if you’ve followed these guidelines, you should be good to go. 

Colorful wooden matches

Summary on match rules for planes

If you’ve skimmed the above just looking for a quick answer to your question, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered!

  • You are not allowed to have any type of matches in your checked luggage.
  • You are not allowed to have strike-anywhere matches onboard, whether in your hand luggage or checked luggage.
  • You are permitted to take safety matches onboard if you have them in your carry-on or your pocket; they must be with you in the cabin at all times.
  • You can bring a maximum of one book, packet or box of safety matches onboard.

The most important thing to remember is that these rules are in place for everyone’s benefit; the FAA and TSA have created these restrictions in line with other government agencies such as mail and security, who also consider strike-anywhere matches to be dangerous goods.

Hopefully this has answered any questions you might have about bringing matches on a plane!

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