An illuminated guide on what to carry, pack and leave at home

When you board a plane, it's OK to have a lighter in your pocket, in your purse or in your carry-on. That single lighter can be a snazzy Zippo that uses an absorbed liquid fuel for a flame; a standard lighter that uses liquid fuel or butane for a flame; or a disposable lighter.

It's not the Transportation Safety Administration that sets this one-lighter limitation. It's the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the rule is enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration for safety reasons. The TSA focuses on security, and under its regulations you're restricted from carrying torch lighters and any lighter that looks like a weapon. No matter what government agency the various rules fall under, here's what you need to know if you plan to carry any type of lighter on board or in your checked baggage.

One in hand, two in the bag(gage)

Although you are allowed to carry only one lighter with you in the airplane cabin, you may pack up to two additional lighters with fuel in your checked baggage. But there are important stipulations:

  • the lighter absolutely must be packed in a DOT-approved case
  • the lighter case manufacturer must hold a special permit issued by the DOT
  • the case can hold a flammable liquid lighter or a torch lighter, such as a Zippo lighter, and nothing else.

Lighter Fluid, Butane, or Absorbed Liquid

No lighter fluid, butane or other flammable liquid is allowed in the aircraft cabin or in checked luggage. Plan to purchase lighter fluid after you arrive at your destination.

Lighter Without Fluid

Empty lighters are allowed in your checked luggage, but expect them to be screened carefully. If fumes or residue are detected, the lighter won't be allowed on the plane. When you have good reason to pack an empty lighter, write a note of explanation and put it in a plastic bag along with the lighter where baggage inspectors can easily find it. This way you can carry grandpa's antique lighter to a family reunion or transport a valuable new lighter without a lot of hassle.

Related TSA Restrictions

If you plan to make ‌crème brûlée‌ for your sweetheart when you arrive at your destination, you'd better leave plenty of time to pick up a chef's torch on the way from the airport to the kitchen. Chef's torches, utility torches and micro torches aren't considered lighters, and they're banned by the TSA along with any flammable liquid that would be needed to use the torch.