New Details On Nonsensical Electronics Ban

Filed Under: Business Travel, Security/TSA

To catch everyone up, yesterday Ben noted a Royal Jordanian announcement that electronic devices would be banned from passenger cabins on U.S.-bound flights effective March 21st. This was quickly followed by rumors that this wasn’t just Royal Jordanian acting on a whim, but rather a new directive being issued by U.S. authorities, though the details were still fuzzy.

Late last night the Associated Press reported the electronics ban will apply to flights from Amman, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait City, and Riyadh. Those are nearly all the major airports in the Middle East and Northern Africa, and are hubs for the national airlines of each respective country. The impacted airlines are:

  • Egyptair
  • Etihad
  • Emirates
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Saudia
  • Turkish Airlines

The prohibition on electronics in the passenger cabin impacts flights to the United States from any of these cities, regardless of where the passenger originates. So if you’re connecting through Istanbul from any of the 115 countries served by Turkish Airlines, you won’t be able to bring your electronics onboard for the flight to the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security has finally published details, which note:

Electronic devices larger than a cell phone/smart phone will not be allowed to be carried onboard the aircraft in carry-on luggage or other accessible property. Electronic devices that exceed this size limit must be secured in checked luggage. Necessary medical devices will be allowed to remain in a passenger’s possession after they are screened.

The approximate size of a commonly available smartphone is considered to be a guideline for passengers. Examples of large electronic devices that will not be allowed in the cabin on affected flights include, but are not limited to:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • E-Readers
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVD players
  • Electronic game units larger than a smartphone
  • Travel printers/scanners

There is no impact on domestic flights in the United States or flights departing the United States. Electronic devices will continue to be allowed on all flights originating in the United States.

There was some initial confusion surrounding the duration of the ban, with some claiming it was for “the next 96 hours.” It appears now that the airlines were notified officially on Tuesday morning and given 96 hours to implement. The ban itself is indefinite.

Why these airports?

This has not been adequately explained, in my opinion. Some of them are unsurprising based on past incidents (namely Cairo, though Istanbul had issues last summer). Others, such as Abu Dhabi, are nearly inexplicable.

The United States operates a Pre-Clearance facility in Abu Dhabi, so those passengers are already subject to enhanced screening and scrutiny. Those planes even arrive in the U.S. as domestic flights!

This directive should theoretically (hopefully?) be a response to imminent and actionable intelligence, and I certainly want to give the benefit of the doubt there. But this is a very broad action, so it’s hard to make much sense of it.

Is this another Muslim ban?

I don’t know. This has been speculated by others, including a former administration official who told BuzzFeed News “It appears to be a Muslim ban by a thousand cuts.”

The logic there is that if certain groups can’t be outright banned from entering the country, then perhaps they can be disincentivized from visiting if the experience and process is onerous enough. Visas in advance versus ESTAs, extra screenings, more expensive flights, no electronics — you get the picture.

It’s of course impossible to know whether or not that’s a motivation here. While none of the impacted countries were included in the administration’s original travel ban (and none of those countries have direct flights to the U.S.), all of the new countries involved have Muslim majorities. Correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation though.

Is this about protectionist trade policies?

This actually seems more likely to me, because of one glaring exclusion:

Lagos, Nigeria.

While most of the countries on the list have very stable governments and infrastructure, there is an active threat of terrorism in many parts of Nigeria. Concerns surrounding the Boko Haram group have necessitated counter-terrorism drills at the airport itself.

Granted, the intelligence that is prompting this action may be specific enough to include the United Arab Emirates yet exclude Nigeria. But the only airline flying directly from Nigeria to the United States these days is Delta.

So the circumstances feel a bit suspicious to me.

What about batteries in the hold? Can these devices even be checked?

There’s a bit of confusion here as well, because while the FAA has limited the transport of lithium-ion batteries as cargo, they are still allowed for personal use:

“Passengers can carry most consumer-type batteries and portable battery-powered electronic devices for their own personal use in carry-on baggage…Except for spare (uninstalled) lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries, all the batteries allowed in carry-on baggage are also allowed in checked baggage. The batteries must be protected from damage and short circuit or installed in a device.”

That could change, of course, particularly if plane-loads full of people start checking their personal electronic devices, but as of now it’s allowed.

Whether or not it’s a good idea is something else entirely. Runway Girl Network addressed concerns about consolidating electronics away from passengers and crew yesterday:

The crucial question for aviation safety is this: is it more safe to simply push all electronics into the hold, where firefighting is exponentially more difficult than in the cabin, without any additional screening, or to properly screen all electronics with potential voids that could cache threat contraband — via X-ray, explosive swabs, the “turn it on and do something with it” test, and so on?

It’s tough to find a logical explanation as to how removing electronic devices from the passenger cabin on certain flights will improve safety, though again — I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt.

Bottom line

The most immediate impact of this directive will be to inconvenience travelers. Passengers wanting to travel with tablets and laptops will have to risk theft and damage in order to do so. This will be a complete non-starter for many (or most) business travelers.

There are logistical questions as well — will all outstations know to police electronics in hand-baggage? What happens if a passenger goes to board their connecting flight in Dubai (the largest airport in the world for international passenger traffic) and has a Kindle in their purse? Will their checked bag be pulled so they can add their devices? How will that impact departures?

Then there’s the economics. It’s hard to imagine this won’t financially hurt the nine carriers who have hubs in these cities. Business travelers will almost certainly have to book away, as the convenience of a one-stop routing on Emirates is nearly obliterated by the risk of losing access to sensitive materials.

And of course, it all seems like a rather foolhardy exercise, as bad actors could easily circumvent this policy by booking a connecting flight on separate tickets or just through another city.

Update: DHS has released a FAQ document this morning which is worth reading, but doesn’t answer many policy or logistical questions.

What are your thoughts on these new restrictions?

  1. Lucky’ recent fought with Kuwait Airlines was with a stop in Shannon. I know that they operate both one stop and nonstop (kwi-jfk) services. Do you think it is ok to use electronics if flying on the SNN stopping flight since it is direct and technically not “nonstop”?

  2. Who’s going to check a US$2500 laptop in their luggage? Who’s going to check a US$1,200 iPad Pro? Is they airline going to insure the contents? It seems like a poorly thought out plan (if any thought went into it at all).

  3. So the government don’t want to make public all the threats that the country faces… and you guys complain about that. Maybe, just maybe, the government doesn’t want to let the ‘bad guys know their intel.
    But obviously, you bloggers want to cause more problems so you make up crap about how this is a Muslim ban or a trade issue.

  4. I don’t generally believe in conspiracy theory, but the only way this stupid measure can be explained is that it’s economic war against ME3, or more broadly, against competitors of the 3 US legacy carriers from the ME. If the threat against flights to the US, then you would expect US carriers to be among first affected. If it is based on certain piece if intellegence then you would assume that a sub group of the travelling public could be subjected to extra screening, just like the useless and painful SSSS. Heck, I travel mostly from DXB and DOH to the States and screening there is much more stringent than the useless TSA nude-o-scope. Anyone who has traveled through these airports will know that every single passenger goes through security screening twice, first through the general airport security and then at the gate, which is handled by independent contractors for the US government. Whether you have the dreadul SSSS or not, you are subjected to the second screening.

    This measure is stupid plain and simple. Someone back there is trying to make the US as unfriendly as possible to the outside world, which is very sad…

  5. Agree, attack on the ME3, other surrounding countries added to the list so as not to make the blatant economic attack on these airlines obvious.

  6. My immediate thoughts are I have not been to US, this country has not got anything nice to offer culturally or spiritually.

    Thank God this world has got lots of of exciting destinations on offer.

  7. Hey Lucky… I am flying TK tomorrow with a laptop and a camera… Any advice on how to deal with those?

  8. This is very clearly a hissy fit on the part of President Pussygrabber. He didn’t get his way with his two Muslim bans, so he wants to stick it to them any way he can. I’m sure this also has to do with protecting the US3 from vastly superior foreign competition.

    This sort of nonsense will definitely lead to more animosity from casual Muslims who previously liked our country, and will almost certainly be used as recruitment material for ISIS. I imagine there will be a large terrorist attack very soon. And, if I’m honest, I kind of hope there is. We certainly deserve one, with this kind of idiotic “policy.”

  9. Ok so let me get this straight. There are terrorists in the US who want to blow up a plane and the security at US airports is not good enough. This sounds absolutely possible to me sadly. Now, the fact they would rather take down a Qatar flight to Doha, vs. An American, BA or Air France flight is almost non sensical. This is just about making the lives of Muslims more difficult. full stop. Im just scared that at some point the normal intelligence effort and cooperation doesnt flow so well from these countries and it increases vs. decreases the risk

  10. Does this also affect US airlines that fly to those cities? Or just the carriers based in those countries?

  11. @Robert Schrader What you just said is the most idiotic thing I’ve heard in a while. You ‘kind of hope there is’ a terrorist attack soon? Including loss of life, I presume? Yeah, that’s the way to get back at Trump.

  12. Preclearance for customs isn’t the same as security inspections for terrorism. There must be a credible threat.

  13. @DaninMCI

    “There must be a credible threat”

    Nope, if we were talking about a president routed in reality then there might be a benefit of the doubt to be given. There could be many arbitrary reasons thing ban was enacted. To protect people from exploding ipads is at the bottom of my list.

  14. I doubt losing access to one’s laptop or other device is intended as a means to deter Muslim travel to the US. A recent US Special forces raid of an Al Qaeda HQ in Yemen yielded a trove of intel about the groups activities and technological advancements. It seems much more likely that this restriction is in response to actionable intelligence. Sure, it may be from a greater abundance of caution or hawkishness towards terrorism that is the general posture of the current US administration, but the economic protectionist theory or extension of a muslim ban seems like a stretch to me.

  15. Everyone is quick to say that it’s to help the US carriers… but has anyone actually thought about it properly? No US carrier flys direct to any of those cities. So it’s not like they’re getting any preferential treatment anyway.
    But as usual, the public and media are just jumping the gun and assuming nonsensical conspiracy theories.
    I expected better from you though (@tiffany and lucky)

  16. I like all the useless speculation in this post. It really helps to keep me informed. Congrats on contributing to the dumbing down of your readers.

  17. This is so laughable in how ineffective and ridiculous it will be to implement; not to mention how dangerous it is going to be with all those electronics in the cargo hold. Theft will skyrocket; and you can bet that the premium cabins on the ME3 are gonna be empty soon (silver lining: great award availability about to open up!)

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and speculate that this is the US3 working with the US government to hit the ME3 where it hurts. The other airlines added in are just cover for who the real targets of this electronics ban are: Qatar, Emirates and Etihad. The US3 knows that business traffic is going to plummet during this ban for the ME3 and hurt them financially.

    Trump met with US Airline execs in February, and given how the US3 have lobbied the hell out of Washington about the ME3 and gotten virtually nowhere, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they cooked this up with the Trump administration as Cheetoh Mussolini likes to “solve things”.

    Look for retaliatory measures by the ME3 and affected countries soon. What a sh*tshow this is gonna be.

  18. Amazing how no US airlines are covered by this ban, despite them serving these same routes and using exactly the same security measures. How can this be justified as anything other than protectionist to US airlines when there’s no difference in risk?

  19. Basic question: is an electronic toothbrush considered a medical device?

    I have a business flight on a QR flight to Australia from the US and cant recall the last time I checked a bag, and do not intend to start now. I will consider not traveling with a laptop/ ipad if needed, but would be really upset if I’m forced to check the bag due to an electronic toothbrush. First world problems I know.

    Bottom line, as J pax, this is hugely inconvenient and am actually considering a refund of my ticket and rebook another way. I don’t doubt that ther has to be intelligence supporting this decision but don’t understand why this is not extended to every airport.

  20. Hey ! Please can you tell me how long this ban would continue as I am planing to Visit US in 3 months.

  21. Indian Eagle, please spend your hard-earned rupees somewhere else. This shithole of a country is worth neither your time nor your money.

  22. I assune it’s obviously OK to leave lithium-Ion batteries in laptops in checked luggage on US carriers as well…

  23. I fly HKG>DOH>LAX. IN HKG I can’t check-in anything with a battery. How will this logistically work for transit passenger?
    Am I supposed to check-in a $3K laptop and let the lazy union baggage handler at LAX throw it from 10 feet on the belt? Who is going to pay for the damages?
    This will be a disaster for passengers.

  24. There almost has to be an economic component to this. Abu Dhabi and Dubai? Really? The hard part will be if you are a US-based business person who travels for business to/from the ME. Most folks on business have some sort of electronics for work with them. Going to go out on a limb and guess companies are not going to be happy with their employees checking their laptops. I suppose a company could station ‘travel laptops’ in the countries they do business with – but that presumes the companies are large enough to have an office and in-country staff to handle it.

    Your other option, of course, is to avoid direct flights to the ME. You can still fly Qatar/Emirates/Etihad with electronics- just from places other than CONUS. Only problem with that is time is money.

  25. I love how you can immediately pick out the right wing fanatics from this post. “James” and “NB” immediately go to alternative facts and blaming the media and public for any criticism of a government action. While I agree, that there is a lot of speculation backed with little fact, it is healthy for a populist to do so.

    “NB” The Yemen raid resulted in the death of an American sailor, not a “treasure trove” of Intel. Several DoD officials have stated that there was limited value in the intel gathered. Your statement mimics that from the White House and their attempt to distract from their ineptitude which resulted in the death of an American.

    I don’t care who you support politically, if you are going to contribute to the discussion please do some due diligence to make sure you’re spouting general truths.

  26. Tiffany, you let your bias show with your headline, “Nonsensical ban.”

    First, with all due respect, what the heck do you know about any threat? What high level information are you privy to?

    Second, I always love the “well the bad guys will always find another way to attack.” My question is, do you lock your house up at night? Why bother? Bad people can just break a window and still enter.

    I doubt this ban will make a difference but who knows and we may never know. What I do know is we are now living in year 16 of USA Kabuki security. Is this really any different?

    PS: Robert Scharder is a hate-filled, smug, foul-mouthed bigot who, more importantly, adds nothing of value to the subject.

  27. @ Brian — Fixed! I was thinking of international traffic, which I believe is correct. Thank you!!

  28. NB,

    It didn’t take you long to try to justify Trump’s messy and messed up raid in Yemen. That Trump raid in Yemen didn’t yield any intel about non-state actors developing new explosives. But nice try on your part to defend the Saudi-loved attack by the Putin-lover who claimed to just grab women by the groin and now has his TSA doing the same at airports across America with a new, more intimate, “standardized” pat-down of your fellow Americans.

  29. Just curious as to whether I am understanding this ban correctly. From all of the articles I have read including this post they state travel originating from select countries to the United States. It never mentions flights from the United States to any of these countries. As such, if I am flying from JFK to AUH does this ban still apply since I am originating in the United States and not one of these countries? As far as i can tell the ban only applies to the inbound flights to the US and the outbound flights are not affected by this ban.

    If true, then it would appear that a specific and credible threat exists. My main concern though is that with the new ban on electronic devices in the cabin on flights from specific countries to the US the terrorists will still be able to accomplish their goal by simply taking a connecting flight to another country first where the ban does not apply and then switching aircraft. Or if the ban requires passengers to check their personal electronic equipment even on connecting flights that the terrorists will simply have a layover of 4+ hours where they then can claim their bags, take their personal electronics out that they would use for the terrorist attack and then board another plan that is not covered by the ban.

    As such, I am surprised that the United States did not try to coordinate with their allies in Europe, Asia, and Australia in particular to develop a more robust and comprehensive ban that restricted personal electronic devices from all individuals that arrive in their country from the selected countries covered in this ban. While I believe that this would be extremely difficult to implement, in the past allies of the United States would coordinate with the US on air travel bans such as this.

  30. @ Bill — Right, but they do have codeshare agreements and metal neutrality with European carriers, so there is a (slight) benefit there.

    But I don’t really think the help to the US carriers comes from the purchasing of single flights, but rather the cumulative effect. The US carriers despise how the ME3 carry so much connecting traffic, and their increasing expansion into second and third tier cities in the US. You can fly from Orlando to Lusaka in one stop on Emirates now, versus landing in Miami or Atlanta and connecting on a US carrier.

    Will that growth be able to continue if passengers book away because of the electronics ban?

  31. I foresee a lot of fare sales from middle east countries. A silver lining I guess.

    If the airlines feel this is a direct attack against them, I am sure they will come up with a worthy solution to help circumvent some of the trouble this is causing.

  32. @ RoloT — Because it is nonsensical. Regardless of any new intelligence (which there doesn’t seem to be, DHS says this is due to “ongoing concerns”), this isn’t a focused response, and the details don’t make sense. It is at best, as you noted, security theater.

  33. Tiffany, can you tell us any specifics from from the intelligence briefings you receive that lead you to believe this action is nonsensical? I assume you have inside knowledge about the world situation to make such a specific claim. What’s great is that if, on the morning of 9/11, a crew member had become suspicious of Mohamad Atta and his crew and had them removed from the plane, you all would be talking about how “nonsensical” and unfair it was. (And if an electronics-based attack was launched on a flight from one of these countries on one of these airlines, Tiffany etc would be outraged that Trump himself didn’t stop it.) I enjoy the trip reports but posts like this show how removed y’all are from reality, with this sense of entitlement and the idea that anything which lessens the first-class experience for rich urbanites who fly Emirates for a living is automatically bad for the world.

  34. According to most news reports, this proposal/policy comes from the US security agencies rather than the WH. If that’s the case it can’t be a backdoor Muslim ban. If it transpires that Trump and co did in fact play a role in it, as some kind of knee-jerk/hissy fit response to court decisions, then the security agencies would be terribly embarrassed (and compromised) ….and these things always become public at some point.
    So, if it’s a genuine security issue, no one will complain too much; if it’s political, another matter entirely.

  35. This is definitely a measure to hurt the M3. You can bet Delta, AA and UA had a say on this new regulation.

  36. The US carriers couldn’t make the accusation of the ME carriers being subsided to stick so apparently the only method now is based on National Security. I have been traveling into and out of the ME and Afghanistan with Emirates and never felt safer. Makes no sense other than this. This ban will not deter me from flying the big 3 ME carriers. Maybe if the US airline can get their @#$% together to compete, then maybe their whining would be warranted.

  37. @ Billy — I don’t believe you need to read an intelligence briefing to question the actions being taken in response.

    If the concern is with explosive devices and laptops (like the Somalia incident) how does checking the equipment in the hold reduce risk versus having the passenger present themselves to a security officer, powering on all their devices, swabbing hands, etc.? If we have credible intelligence suggesting current screening procedures are not sufficient, how does pushing electronics to the hold and giving that responsibility to back-of-house screeners help? Airlines aren’t increasing the check-in cut off from these cities. Do we really think each bag is going to be individually opened and the devices manually screened like they would be if they were with the passengers?

    If the concern is that electronics are going to be used as detonation devices, or to hack airplane systems, etc., is there really anything that can be done with a laptop that can’t be done with a phone? With the latter you even lose the passive security of “nosy passengers” who might notice something unusual happening on a laptop, but won’t have the same visibility with a phone.

    Compare to say, removing shoes and sending them through the X-ray, or the war on liquids — it’s obnoxious but the logic is clear. As Ben noted yesterday, it’s tough to find a logical explanation for these restrictions. But if it makes sense to you, I’d love to hear more, as I really would like to understand this.

  38. You’re all commenting based on zero information, just blind guesses, conjecture and inference. It’s strange how your ignorance is not stopping you from judging and blaming though. I’m sure if King Obama’s administration introduced some security measure, you would say “oh thank you Obama for protecting us, what a great president!”.

  39. I have flights on Turkish in a month that I booked almost a year in advance using United miles. I finally had enough of this. I don’t know what the administration is going to do next. I called United and they were willing to waive the change fee but not the miles needed. There are currently no saver awards on the days needed. I came up with a United metal itinerary and asked a supervisor to open award space, but the request was not granted because there there has been no official communication within United.

  40. As someone who was impacted by the original no electronics, no liquids, no anything ban and originated travel overseas….this indeed becomes a shitshow at the gate with mandatory secondary inspections that yield restricted items.

    And it’s super fun when the ife doesn’t work…or the airline runs out of provisioned headphones.

    But, you survive the flight and you arrive home safe. Until there is a true determination of threat and an actual indefinite ban, then start complaining. And let’s see if the US actually audits them in this process/holds them to it.

  41. @ Jeff — I never said it wasn’t predicated by intelligence, and I still question the effectiveness of the directive from a security standpoint. Maybe I’m missing something though.

  42. By volume, (which would presumably be the important measure if they’re concerned about explosives) my e-reader is the same size or smaller than a lot of modern smart phones, yet that’s included on the banned list?
    At least you can still bring a paper book on board for this one. I remember waiting for a plane in a tiny secondary terminal with no checked baggage, no book, and only my passport and a tiny gift shop to amuse myself…

  43. Tiffany – how do you know there’s not any new intelligence? If there were, you and I wouldn’t know. You and Ben used to be the only writers on this blog with impartiality and credibility, but I’m thinking it’s now only Ben. You need to change the title of this post, and quit assuming that everything that’s announced regarding national safety in this country is always political.

  44. Well, we just arrived in JFK on EY from AUH and the flight departed 3:35am on March 21 AUH time. No mention whatsoever about any electronics ban.

    Is the start time March 21 in the US? That would seem strange since it’s mean to affect inbound flights.

  45. Senior U.S. administration officials said the rules were prompted by “evaluated intelligence” that terrorists continue to target commercial aviation by “smuggling explosives in portable electronic devices.”

    “Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration acting administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last-point-of-departure airports to the United States,” officials said late Monday.

    Federal officials initially described the ban as indefinite. But a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, David Lapan, said the directive runs until Oct. 14 and could be extended for another year “should the evaluation of the threat remain the same.”

  46. Business and First class on flights to and from the U.S. (and the U.K.?) on these carriers will soon be wide open. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the low fares that will soon be advertised as business traffic on the nonstop flights will soon be very light.

  47. Tiffany and Lucky,
    Over the years reading this blog, I recall many instances of you guys commenting on a perception of indifferent security screening in the ME (I think UAE and Cairo). Do you think that screening was lax to the point of being dangerous? See the example below.

    A straight reading of this ban is that they want to set up stricter Israeli style security procedures for US bound flights at all of these airports and the temporary ban is a way of getting the host countries to pay attention. (I still have my money on this ban having been developed by a US3 lobbyist).

    Here is an example from DXB:

    “We already had our boarding passes so headed straight for the immigration and security checkpoint, where the queues were fairly short. At immigration the officer managed to text, eat candy, and sanitize his hands all while I stood at the counter, while at security they screened the bags without anyone actually looking at the x-ray screen. Go figure.”

  48. Firstly, Tiffany is correct: this policy is nonsensical. How does placing laptops and e-readers in the hold make us any safer? None of the Trump fanatics have an answer for that. They just claim that we don’t have all the facts. Well, here’s an actual fact: Pan Am 103 was brought down by an electronic device that had been checked into the hold. And here’s another fact: Trump’s policies are jeopardizing the safety of all Americans who live and work overseas.

    Secondly, it’s good to be middle-aged. I remember the days when flying long-haul meant being disconnected from work for 15 or more hours. I had a briefcase, a pad of paper and a pen instead of a laptop. I had (and still have) a book for my inflight entertainment. And I can easily go back to these things for my upcoming JED-DOH-IAD flight. It’s rather comical how millennials are enslaved to their electronics; it makes me wonder how they would survive an actual catastrophe.

  49. Despite what people think are the reasons behind this, does anyone have any real solid statistics as to what proportion of passengers will be affected by this and therefore an estimate of the “damage” that could be done? What proportion of passengers travels with equipment that “meets the criteria”?

    Furthermore, people ask about how this will be policed. I agree, probably badly, but, if there are clear signs/instructions that people shouldn’t carry certain items, then the onus is on them to be responsible! They might get away with it but equally, if caught at the gate, I don’t think they’d have a leg to stand on if their expensive items end up in the “bin”. Why is it that people can’t take ownership of their own actions?

  50. Why do Trump and Republicans want America to be so much like Israel? Sure, Israel has the best “security” in the world; they’re also an international pariah. Not sure if a statistically insignificant decrease in violent crime is worth the rest of the world closing its door to us.

    Also, kudos to Tiffany for the real talk in this post. Part of what allowed Trump to be elected in the first place was the false equivalency and patterns of normalization perpetuated by the media. It’s beyond time for all of us to call a spade a spade.

  51. Also, it’s not logical to assume that because the UK is adopting a similar posture, either is rooted in fact. Britain has been America’s lap dog for decades; the May government in particular seems eager to play little lamb to the Trump administration’s Mary.

  52. @Tiffany: You and Lucky seem to be missing a fundamental technical component of a security check at airports here and in other articles.

    ” I don’t believe you need to read an intelligence briefing to question the actions being taken in response.”

    This neglects the fact that most major airports nowadays have CT scanners available for checked luggage which can detect things even a high end nominal x-ray machine cannot (albeit at usually drastically reduced scanning speeds unless its one of the high speed CT scanners). If there is an actionable intelligence issue (eg something wrapping an electronic device in a plastic sheath which may potentially spoof a nominal x-ray machine but not necessarily a CT scanner) then I can see the the authorities of the countries travel security agencies doing exactly what they are doing now. Someone else also mentioned a possibility of remote hijacking flight systems, this was actually a serious concern when a security expert illustrated they were capable of doing just that.

    That said I’m putting the caveat here that while I know these systems are capable of highly differentiating themselves from a high power x-ray machine (with contrast) that does not necessarily mean they are fully implemented at the airports in question or even at the originating airports that have flights connect through the airports in question nor do we specifically know the threat. It’s fine to discuss and debate imo the potentials ramifications, but outright declaring it to be potentially “nonsensical” is to deny the technical capabilities or obstacles at play.

  53. Forget about worrying about theft; this makes it impossible to work on the plane. Business travel goes out the window straight from there. This is absurd.

  54. @Imperator

    I don’t think the issue is just not having your electronics with you onboard, but the real chance of them being stolen through all the process.

  55. @ Phillip — It’s tough to estimate what proportion of passengers travel with devices larger than a phone. Regulators don’t even know. When the battery debacle became a hot issue in 2015, Runway Girl took a poll on Twitter (, but of course their readers are probably heavier tech issuers than others.

    In terms of other numbers, there are ~60 daily flights to the US from the impacted airports, so figure potentially 15k-20k daily passengers? I would wager the majority are traveling with either a camera, tablet, e-reader, laptop, portable charger — if not all of the above.

  56. @ Tom — Perhaps, but it’s typically immigration that’s super lax in the UAE, not necessarily security. I almost always get secondary screening in the UAE (my computer bag has a zipper compartment where I store cables and tech, and it’s understandably suspicious-looking on x-rays), and my husband has had a tripod confiscated in Abu Dhabi.

    But if that’s the case, it’s even more odd that the ME3 countries wouldn’t be included in the UK ban. No one enforces airport security standards more stridently than the UK, as anyone who has debated whether or not lipstick/deodorant/what have you counts as a gel with agents at Heathrow can attest.

    And I keep coming back to Lagos…

  57. You might as well throw your iPads and laptops in the garbage can because there is no way they will be in your checked luggage when it goes onto the carousel at the destination.

  58. We are flying back after a 3 month vacation in South Africa (to Canada via LAX). Our transfer is of course DOH (it was DXB outbound). For 17 hour flights we usually carry e-readers and tablets (for games). We have a total of: 2 laptops, 4 e-readers (Kindle and Kobo) and two tablets. I also have a portable battery powered Epson printer.

    Checking in these devices in hold luggage in Africa means we will be minus two laptops and two tablets by the time we reach DOH (but will not know it until we reach LAX). Almost every year my golf carrier bag is cut open by someone (assume JNB). Every year the TSA people in LAX open again and leave the TSA lock open (they never re-lock the bag).

    Flying 16 hour over the ocean without a book to read is a real downer since most new movies etc are crap. However the fear of loss (or certainty) is the major concern. Airlines protect themselves with the conditions of service that state “valuable articles are not covered for loss and theft from checked luggage – take with you in your carry-on”. I presume that even with the cabin ban they will not accept responsibility?

    A partial solution is to use the system that Alaska uses for their Q400 Bombadier turboprops – they have a luggage cart (“cart-to-go”) as you board the aircraft in which larger hand luggage is placed (overhead bins will not accept standard rollers). After everyone has boarded the cart is wheeled to the cargo hold and items placed into the hold. When the aircraft lands the hand luggage is restored to a luggage cart and you pick up your item as you deplane. NO PROBLEM WITH SECURITY OF THE LUGGAGE as it never gets near any ground staff and handlers. This should be adopted at every airport where the electronics ban is in place. This way the electronics devices will all be checked but then will be stored into the hold if that makes anything safer (very doubtful). At least your expensive electronics devices will arrive safely.

    My very new laptop is about 1 cm thick and is an 11″ screen and weighs very little. There is no volume for including anything large enough to cause damage to an aircraft. A simple check to see if anything is amiss would be to weigh the device and compare it to the authorized weight. A bomb would have to be heavier than a memory chip to be effective. And if the battery was changed to a bomb it would not boot at checkin.

    Too simple – eh?

  59. @Tiffany,

    Yet another Nonsensical post from Tiffany. Did you expect the President to brief you about the threat before any national security measures are implemented?

    I understand your short sightedness when all you can come up with are ME3 and Muslim ban.

  60. How about my powerbank and my bose quietcomfort 35 headphones? They are very obviously larger than a smartphone but I haven’t come across any announcement that mentions such devices in the “including but not limited to” lists.

  61. @ Selim Yasavul — The powerbank will likely need to be checked on flights to the US, the headphones are probably fine. It may depend on who is checking bags.

  62. For the geniuses here who insist “we do not know the intelligence”, just don’t get it. It’s not the threat we discount, terrorists have been plotting to take down airliners for decades, it’s the effectiveness of this ban of preventing an incident, which is zilch. Further thanks to Clown Trump and his cronies telling the world, the terrorists now know the US Government and the world is aware of their plans, they will simply shift their plans now.
    Explosives smuggled in electronics then detonated makes no difference if in the cabin or the hold. Any device can be programmed to detonate, passenger action is not necessary.
    ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups are stateless, restricting only a handful of countries while permitting others leaves a wide, exploitable gap. Further, UAE and Qatar have world class airport security, unlike that at American airports where the TSA’s own audit shows their agents miss 95% of smuggled contraband. If there is a legitimate threat, the only way this ban could remotely be effective is to be worldwide (much like the liquids ban), but, see above, electronics in the hold are no safer than in the cabin.
    Security experts, such as the former head of airport security at Ben Gurion himself has send this ban is “nonsensical”, and he knows far more about protecting airports and airliners than you geniuses can ever hope.
    Pakistan spawns many terrorists, PIA flies to the US direct, if the intelligence indicates a specific threat, then why is Karachi, which has really poor airport security, not on the ban list?
    Even the UK ban included their own airlines, while the US ban conveniently exempts US airlines.
    It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain, this ban was blatant protectionist move, the Big Three US airlines can’t compete against foreign carriers, even at lower prices consumers choose other airlines. And before anyone mumbles subsidies, I reply with Fly America Act, which a huge multibillion dollar corporate welfare for US airlines. Even with this ban, I won’t fly on a US carrier on an international flight. I’ll fly Emirates via Rio, or, if the prices of business and first drop as much as I think they will, I’ll fly on Emirates to the US anyway.

  63. i just called qatar, they said i can saran wrap my laptop/tablet at the airport to put in my checked bag, and that they are not responsible for damages such as caused by throwers, doesnt sound like they care about keeping business

  64. A word of warning when travelling through Abu Dhabi. I was told to remove my very small ladies watch (first time ever when travelling with this watch) at security before a connecting flight. I put it in the tray with my handbag. Then told to get body pat down in the cubicle by female security. I asked to retrieve my bag and watch first but denied. Quick cursory pat down but watch had been taken somewhere between scanner and conveyor belt. I kept my eye on my bag as far as I could all the time I was with security. Security staff, Police no help at all despite my angry protestations. Looking at the scans was obviously pointless as the watch would have been taken afterwards. I couldn’t get a written police report from anyone. Highly suspicious especially as one of our group saw and heard the same situation happening to a woman on the way out from the UK. Same loud complaints but no help given and no watch recovered. Advice: take off all jewellery items, all phones and put them in your bag before you get to the scanner. As for laptops, Kindles, and iPads , we followed online advice last Thursday (flying Etihad) to put everything in our hold bags and keep our fingers crossed re potential damage.

  65. We just connected through Abu Dhabi coming from Colombo and were surprised by this new rule. We had to do our best to wrap our SLR camera and lenses up and place it in an airport provided box that was checked through. We also had to check our smaller camera. This occurred at the US immigration point in Abu Dhabi. We have yet to retrieve it at our final destination. No guarantee or insurance provided by Etihad that we know about. We also were flagged for secondary screening (despite having global entry) because my husband’s name was “too common.” Beware of connections through these airports right now. Took us 1.5 hours to get to gate from main part of airport.

  66. Someone is going to forget their laptop is on store it in the hold with the luggage and there will be a fire. The idea of storing a large amount of lithium batteries in the hold I believe would be against fire regs as far as airplanes is it not? with the 787 problems and the Samsung problems with batteries going up in flames, What are they thinking?

  67. Just read an article today 25 April The Telegraph (UK paper)

    US looking to widen electronics ban from European airports, this could include US airlines…

  68. “Why do Trump and Republicans want America to be so much like Israel? Sure, Israel has the best “security” in the world; they’re also an international pariah. Not sure if a statistically insignificant decrease in violent crime is worth the rest of the world closing its door to us.” Israel is an international pariah. Since when. Last time I checked they were a national one

  69. I am upset about this because we want to go on an African Safari, already purchased the tickets and are returning on EgyptAir. We have thousands of dollars of delicate camera equipment that will now have to be in the hold because US Airlines can’t compete effectively with the MiddleEastern airlines and instead of stepping up their game, they are trying other ways to keep people off of them which is unfair to the customer.

    Not only do we have to worry about the cameras and equipment being stolen, but that they could be severely damaged from being thrown around and they won’t pay out a fraction of the cost of everything if something is damaged or stolen.

  70. I was just curious as to any updates on this policy. I am getting ready to leave for italy with layovers both ways in Casablanca. Does this mean I cant read my kindle on the way home, because yeah, I can fit lots of contraband in my e reader which is slimmer than a cell phone. I guess I will have to read small print on my app instead.

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