Electronics travel ban? What does it mean for you and your travel tomorrow?
On 20 March 2017, the U.S. President directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to slap a ban on laptops and tablets on all direct flights from Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Nothing ‘larger than a cell phone’ may be carried on. This decision is best described by the Verge.com as, “a confusing mess” and there are rumours that the UK is about to make the same move.
Now, without getting into the messy political motivations around such a ban let’s talk about what that means if you’re travelling to, or from, any of these countries. Some questions which immediately spring to mind are:
What’s a direct flight?
How large is a cell phone?
Is it only laptops and tablets? What about my Kindle? A battery pack? All the other ‘electronic devices’ I’d travel with?
Let’s take each in turn:
1. What’s a direct flight?
The DHS indicates in their FAQs (A13) on the topic that this ban applies to all flight from or through the following airports to the U.S.
Jordan - Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
Egypt - Cairo International Airport (CAI)
Turkey - Ataturk International Airport (IST)
Saudi Arabia - King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
Saudi Arabia - King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
Kuwait - Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
Morocco - Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
Qatar - Hamad International Airport (DOH)
United Arab Emirates - Dubai International Airport (DXB)
United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
If you’re not flying from OR through those airports to the U.S. you can chillax…for now. Continue to carry your laptops and electronics in your carry-on luggage as always advised to prevent damage and theft. You can also chillax if you’re flying TO any of those airports….you can get your laptop there in your carry-on...you just won’t be able to get it back in your carry-on (A28).
If you’re flying from or through any of those airports, as I often do for business, then you’re going to make some changes. I would advise to stop carrying a laptop and tablet completely. But, my business trips are usually short and I can work with the setup I describe below for about a week. If you have to have a laptop you’re going to have to take the risk of theft and handling damage and put it in your checked-in luggage. We’ll talk about some ways to further secure your checked-in luggage in another blog.
2. How large is a cell phone?
Here is gets vague in the FAQs (A9) and says: “The size and shape of smart phones varies by brand. Smartphones are commonly available around the world and their size is well understood by most passengers who fly internationally. Please check with your airline if you are not sure whether your smartphone is impacted.”
As you can imagine the Emirates phone is ringing off the hook right about now with passengers trying to figure out if their mobile phone makes the cut. So, if in doubt call the airline although I suspect in about 5 minutes every airline affected will have mobile phone parameters listed on their websites. Why? Because most of these airlines have very good customer service and care about their customers.
3. What about other electronic devices?
Again, vaguery and ‘check with your airline’ (A9). So, basically all the heavy lifting on this has been shoved to airlines which use those airports. Electronic devices will be defined as Kindles and other e-readers, battery packs, mouses (mice?), electronic games, you name it. ANYTHING an airline or airport security wants to prohibit with a battery in it or a cord - it will. Now, I travel with this setup and can work just fine for about a week with it. Are these electronic devices (keyboard, external battery pack) larger than a mobile phone? Arguably yes. And, arguably no. However, am I going to win that argument with airport security in the next little while? No.
Obviously, this ban raises more questions than it answers and, like all strange policy edicts issued quickly all of the details won’t be ironed out for some time. The implementation will be open to interpretation by the airlines and security at airports. So my advice in the next little while? If in doubt and if you can – leave it at home. If you can’t, check it in. More on how to secure your luggage in the next blog.