On Tuesday of this week the U.S. announced that those traveling by plane to the U.S. from ten airports in eight predominately Muslim countries in the Middle East would not be allowed to carry electronic devices larger than a cellphone on board. Those passengers will be required to pack laptops and tablets into checked luggage, something they might be reluctant to do out of concern that the devices might be stolen from or damaged while in their checked bag, or that the bag itself might be temporarily or permanently lost by the airline.
The United Kingdom promptly followed suit, banning such devices aboard in-bound flights from a half dozen countries.
The U.S. ban only applies to foreign carriers, not to U.S.-based airlines.
I can see how the ban would prevent those traveling to and from those countries on business from using their laptops or tablets to work in-flight. And since they have typically used only carry-on luggage, they now may have to bring along a second bag for their electronics and give it to the airline to put in the plane’s hold.
When I learned of the ban, I immediately thought of a travel writing colleague who has been posting photos on Facebook as she travels through Morocco. If she is flying out of Casablanca around the end of this week, she may not be able to work on stories about her trip during the flight back home.
And those who carry aboard tablets will have to hope that the airline has seat-back screens for its in-flight entertainment system since passengers won’t have their personal devices available to them to watch movies or television shows.
In 2015, Dubai’s airport served the largest number of international passengers. Istanbul’s airport was number ten on the list of busiest airports in the world. Both are hubs where those traveling between the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and Asia change planes. Passengers flying to the U.S. out of either will not be able to bring their larger electronic devices on-board.
Even U.S. citizens not visiting the countries affected by the ban will be forced to stow their gadgets in checked baggage if they change planes at those airports, or any of the others listed in the order banning carry on of electronic devices, before catching a flight to the U.S.
London’s Heathrow airport, the second busiest in the world during 2015, is a stopover for many travelers headed to the U.S. Passengers flying into Heathrow from one of the airports where the ban is effect will be unable to use their laptops and tablets during the entirety of their trip to the U.S. if their luggage was checked-through to their U.S. destination.
As with the initial passenger travel ban issued by Donald Trump and which federal courts blocked from implementation, the ban on carry-aboard electronics goes into effect on short notice, which at the outset will probably cause confusion and frustration on the part of passengers, airlines, and airport security personnel.
And as this San Francisco Chronicle article points out, what should a passenger do if he or she forgets to remove a laptop from a carry-on bag before heading to an airport security checkpoint?
Throw the laptop away?
Rush back to the ticket counter to check the carry-on bag?