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May You Bring a Ball in Your Hand Luggage?

Ball in Hand Luggage


Can an (inflated) ball in your hand luggage be taken on the journey?

An inflated ball – such as a basketball, football or rugby ball – may usually be carried in hand luggage*. Most of the time, the airlines have nothing against such balls. In rare cases, however, you may not be allowed to transport such a ball and you will run into trouble at the security checkpoint.

A deflated ball can easily be carried in hand luggage. All you have to do is follow the airline’s general regulations regarding the maximum permitted size and weight. No complications are to be expected at the security checkpoint.

*Ryanair is one of the few airlines that explicitly states on its website that half/full inflated balls may not be carried in hand luggage. This also applies to the airline Laudamotion, which now belongs to Ryanair. Another airline that told me that they do not accept inflated balls onboard aeroplane is Aer Lingus.


Can a ball burst in the plane (hand luggage)?

The probability that a ball (football or similar pressure body) will burst in the passenger cabin is very low.

There are at least two good reasons for this:

  • In my research and inquiries to the airlines, only one airline (Aer Lingus, and they do not allow inflated balls onboard) has pointed out a possible danger of the ball bursting on board.
  • The air pressure inside the passenger cabin is comparable to that on a high mountain (2500-3000 meters high). The air pressure is therefore not excessively high, and every ball (football) should be able t withstand such air pressure.

However, please do not shoot a penalty kick on board, because if the ball is in motion, the air pressure might increase and the ball might be bursting.


What do the airlines actually say about the ball in hand luggage?


I asked Aer Lingus on Twitter about Bringing an inflated ball in Hand Luggage and this is what they answered:

You can’t bring an inflated ball on board in either checked in luggage or hand luggage as with the pressurisation after take-off the ball will burst. If you can deflate it you can bring it. We apologise for the disappointment caused by this.

Aer Lingus


Ryanair answers this question on its official website because it says so in the FAQs:

Q: Can I carry footballs/rugby balls?

A: Yes, Ryanair will carry footballs or rugby balls. But they must be partially or fully deflated before your flight.


Lufthansa, on the other hand, confirmed to me via Twitter that an inflated ball would be fine as long as it did not violate the regulations for hand luggage.


SWISS is also relaxed when it comes to inflated balls in hand baggage and in this context only said that the size of the ball in hand baggage could be a problem, so I should better put the ball in checked baggage, if available.


Eurowings stated that the transport of an inflated ball in hand baggage is not a problem in itself, but that the final decision will be made by the staff at the security checkpoint.


Balls in hand luggage in the USA

Even if you are travelling in the USA, you can let your balls disappear in your hand luggage. On the website of the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA), there is a note that basketballs, baseball balls, footballs (American football) and footballs are allowed in both hand luggage and checked baggage.

In some cases, these TSA entries also contain remarks and information on how the item in question is to be transported. However, there are no remarks about the transport of different balls.

For this reason, I asked the TSA personally, and these gentlemen said: No problem. Carrying balls, even when inflated, is not a problem.

Among the balls that are allowed in Hand Luggage in the USA are:

  • Basketballs
  • Bocce Balls
  • Bowling Balls
  • Golf Balls
  • Putty Balls


And what about table tennis balls?

You are probably wondering why we would like to go into more detail about table tennis balls. Fair enough. Well, table tennis balls were made of celluloid until very recently. And celluloid is easily inflammable and highly explosive.

And that’s why the table tennis world now relies on plastic balls, to the chagrin of the (professional) players. For the time being, however, celluloid balls remain the rule for the broad masses. In the near future, however, the plastic balls will definitely outpace the celluloid balls.

But now enough with table tennis in and of itself. So what exactly applies to table tennis balls (both celluloid balls and plastic balls) in aeroplanes?

I asked Lufthansa about this and they said: “Yes, that should be all right. You simply have to make sure that you do not violate the Lufthansa cabin baggage regulations (maximum size 55 x 40 x 23 cm, max. 8 kg)”.

When asked if table tennis balls could be carried in hand luggage, SWISS said: “Sure, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

As far as table tennis balls in the USA are concerned, you can also carry them in your hand luggage. I also asked the TSA about this directly.

Note: You should always be critical of the statements made by the airlines regarding permitted/prohibited items in hand luggage. Take these as clues but not necessarily as definitive facts. Please do not forget that the decision as to whether or not an object may pass through the security check is ultimately always made by the security check personnel. And this personnel is not provided by the airlines.


Balls in Hand Luggage: Conclusion

Most airlines do not seem to have a problem with inflated balls in hand luggage (Ryanair, Laudamotion and Aer Lingus, however, do not allow it). However, as always, you could still get into trouble at the security checkpoint, as the security personnel at the security checkpoint ultimately decides what you can bring on board and what you cannot.

But the chances of getting an inflated ball into your hand luggage are good overall. However, if you want to be sure 100 %, then please deflate the ball before stowing it in your hand luggage.