Emirates Is Introducing A Laptop And Tablet Handling Service For US Flights

Filed Under: Emirates, Travel Technology

With the US having implemented an electronics ban for passengers traveling nonstop to the US from Amman, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait City, and Riyadh, it’ll be interesting to see the ways in which airlines adapt to the situation. This potentially has a huge impact on the demand for travel on these airlines, as checking electronics is not only a huge waste of time (in terms of lost productivity, waiting at baggage claim, etc.), but comes with the risk of electronics being damaged or stolen.

With that in mind, Emirates is the first airline to announce a somewhat creative solution to this situation. Emirates is introducing a service that enables passengers to use their laptops and tablets until just before they board their US-bound flight. At the gate there will be security staff who will carefully package your electronics in boxes before boarding, and then you can collect them on arrival.

What I’m not sure about is:

  • If the electronics will just be put on the baggage claim belt on arrival, or what exactly the system will be
  • How this would differ from how the situation would otherwise be handled for U.S. bound passengers; for example, if you’re flying from India to Dubai to the US, wouldn’t they be collecting your electronics at the gate anyway?


Per the Emirates press release:

Emirates customers traveling to the US via Dubai will be able to utilise their laptops and tablet devices on the first part of their journeys, and also during transit in Dubai. They must then declare and hand over their laptops, tablets, and other banned electronic devices to security staff at the gate just before boarding their US-bound flight. The devices will be carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination. There will not be any charge for this service.

Passengers on US-bound flights starting their journeys in Dubai are encouraged to pack their electronic devices into their check-in luggage in the first instance, to avoid delays.

Customers should be aware that there will be a detailed search of all hand baggage on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai. They should therefore declare their devices before the search, or ensure their electronic devices are packed into their check-in luggage in the first instance.

Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said: “Our aim is to ensure compliance with the new rules, while minimising disruption to passenger flow and impact on customer experience. Our new complimentary service enables passengers, particularly those flying for business, to have the flexibility to use their devices until the last possible moment.

“Once on board they can still stay connected on their mobile phones. Our historical data shows that on Emirates’ US flights, 90% of passengers using our onboard mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity services do so via their smart phones. Only 6% connect via their laptops, and 4% via their tablets. That is not to say that other passengers are not using their devices offline, but perhaps the silver lining to this is that they can now justifiably give themselves a break from their devices, enjoy our onboard service and catch up on the latest movies, music, and TV box sets that we have on offer.”

Emirates is working to ensure that its operations comply with the latest restrictions on electronic devices in the cabin, for when the rules take effect on 25 March. Emirates will deploy extra staff at the airport to ease and assist passengers, especially in the first days of the new rules being implemented.

While it’s by no means a perfect solution, it’s certainly better than nothing, so I commend Emirates for that. I’ll be especially curious to see how this is handled in practice. How will electronics be packaged, and where can they be collected?

Does Emirates’ laptop and tablet handling service put you any more at ease about checking your electronics, or…?

  1. Lucky, this needs to be read very carefully as it would seem to apply to EK travelers headed to the US via DXB and NOT starting their journey in DXB. If you read the entire press release via the link, you will note that they still recommend travelers pack their devices if starting their journey in DXB.

    It would not appear you are going to be able to clear security in DXB with a laptop if your destination is the US.

  2. This way, the baggage handlers only have to grab this one bag/box with all the electronics in it, not go riffling through everyone’s luggage. Win/win (or is that win/lose). LOL.

  3. If Emirates will insure for losses this seems perfectly fine.

    How often is wifi all that reliable the whole flight anyway.

  4. I don’t like falling into tropes or applying stereotypes or breaking out the rose-tinted glasses, but this seems like exactly the sort of mentality that’s causing the problems between legacy carriers in the US and newer carriers elsewhere (I wouldn’t say it’s exclusive to the ME3, they’re just the most obvious examples).

    When faced with some trouble, either operationally or due to travel restrictions, newer carriers are willing to introduce services like these in order to respond to customer needs, rather than just shrugging their shoulders and saying that it can’t be helped. I can’t imagine Delta, United, or American introducing a service like this so quickly after being hit by these restrictions, and I also can’t imagine them providing it free of charge. They’d only roll it out if they could identify it as a new revenue stream.

  5. This just further emphasizes how ridiculous the whole thing is. The best argument we’ve seen is that checked baggage is potentially screened by more advanced CT scanners, thus enabling agents to find hidden explosives that wouldn’t be as visible to x-rays or the naked eye.

    Are gate-checked electronics then going to be sent through the cargo scanners? Will the rigorous hand-check at the gate include powering devices on and off, swabbing everything, and so forth? If the concern is that airport agents might be compromised, it would seem that this process increases that exposure — you now have way more people handling and processing electronics than you would have previously.

    And there’s the finer point, that if Emirates is able to ramp up staffing and security to provide such a service, surely Dubai Airport would have been able to meet whatever new “best practices” were warranted versus having to outright ban electronics in the cabin.

  6. Emirates solution won’t work for me. I’m probably the odd man out but I don’t use inflight wifi. I use my laptop inflight to do reports and briefing papers that rarely require immediate use of the internet.

    That said, my employer has issued a directive that we do not use any carrier that requires that we check our laptops; even if they’re secured in the cargo hold. It’s simply a risk we’re not willing to take.

  7. I am impressed that EK responded so well to this – but then it is their bread and butter. Too many 380’s to fly empty. Everyone has a good camera and a decent lap top – raise your hand if you have an apple tablet?

    Hopefully Qatar will respond similarly within a short period of time.

    (Maybe they read my suggestion of two days ago)

  8. One question suddenly struck my mind.

    So after so many airlines introduce pilots to use tablet/ ipad to carry plane/flight manuals, what is going to happen?? Does the restriction apply to crews as well I wounder?

  9. Lucky, if I’m travelling from Delhi to JFK via Dubai, I need to check in my laptop in Delhi. Since there WAS no provision to ‘check-in’ luggage during transit, Emirates is now allowing passengers to deposit their electronics in Dubai instead of Delhi. This way anyone who wants to use a laptop during either the Delhi-Dubai flight or during the transit (both perhaps) can now do so.

    It is still a pain. Theft is a big concern, especially out of Nairobi (I’m based out of Kenya) and Delhi airports.

  10. The ban is clearly just to piss off and slow the growth of Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. See how they did implemented this for flights from their hubs? This comes from a discussion American, Delta and United had with Trump. Since US carriers cant compete with the Middle East carriers (I would rather fly Emirates than Delta…) they made this ban so customers will be pissed and therefore fly US airlines. Additionally, since electronics have to be checked, imagine someones laptop or camera gets stolen, this customer will be pissed at Emirates and therefore might not want to fly them again, My creating confusion and aggravating customers on other airlines, these customers will want to fly US carriers.
    Emirates knows this so they are just looking for work arounds. Heck they might even give every in flight traveler an iPad for the duration of the flight.

  11. @Tiffany I’m not sold on the ban, but a couple of points on the rational for the cargo hold vs on board.

    Really small bombs apparently need to be placed strategically to have the desired effect. You lose that level of control with checked baggage. I don’t know where the development stage is, but bomb resistant ULD’s (aluminum containers you see them loading into the cargo deck) were being developed which would provide additional safety against a bomb vs the cabin. Also, it’s easier to sneak individual bomb components on board in several items rather than an assembled bomb so putting the electronics in the hold would force a terrorist to fully assemble the bomb in a single item increasing the likelihood of detection.

    Again, I’m not 100% sold on their rational (why just these countries and why not any US airlines?), but these would be some legitimate safety advantages.

  12. “This comes from a discussion American, Delta and United had with Trump”…”and therefore fly US airlines”

    Just too many unanswered questions.

    For instance, no US airlines fly Cairo-US non-stop, and none are likely to do so in the foreseeable future. Since the US Legacy carriers have no reason to worry about competition from EgyptAir. why is Egypt on the list if this is just about cutting back the ME3?

    And why is the UK doing something similar, and yet also so different?

    For everyone who thinks this is stupid, remember we are talking about the same government that gives us the TSA security theatre. Taking off your shoes at security. Letting us bring on five 3oz bottles of liquid, but not just one 12oz bottle. Letting airlines hire baggage handlers with minimal background checks.

  13. @Chris

    Great post. I completely agree with you.

    I think that Emirates took the “Let’s make a lemonade out of this lemon” approach. Which is something that most legacy companies are really terrible at.

  14. Emirates’ approach will be nice for people that only travel with carry-on luggage. No need to check-in luggage just to stow away your little iPad.

  15. Slightly off topic but I’m going to go glass half full mode for just a moment:

    Perhaps this will incentivize the impacted airlines to improve their on-board bars and encourage things like playing cards on airplanes? It’d be nice if these were a bit more social like the bar cars in trains when I was (much) younger.

    Still, losing my paperwhite seems the height of absurdity. My work laptop is so old it’s embarrassing to take out in public anyway.

  16. Frankly, given the choice of handing my laptop to a security person to be “carefully packed into boxes and loaded onto the aircraft hold,” or packing it myself in my checked bag I’d choose the latter.

  17. This is probably the same procedure they use for duty-free to Australia. Emirates apparently can’t trust Australians to not drink their own duty-free, so flights to Australia get forced to check duty free at the gate. It was particularly stupid and insulting as they did this from the First and Business Class lounge gates.

  18. Will boxed laptops be reunited with pax at the aero bridge, the way parents are reunited with infant strollers, or will these laptops still be delivered on the luggage carousel? I’d be more comfortable with the former, even if the disembarkation processes is severely prolonged.

  19. @Tiffany: I really like your posts but I believe you are now just whining about this ban. It is not all that bad and it won’t really change people’s lives. Yes it is an inconvenience but that’s about it. You are probably way younger than me but I traveled when there were no iPhones, iPads, laptops, etc… and I survived. You bloggers just try to complain about whatever actions the US Government take instead of try to understand why they were taken. I am not happy that I have to pay over $4 for a bottle of water at the airport but there is nothing I can do about it because someone decided the water I bring from home is a threat to National Security. As for the electronic ban, there is a huge difference if the device is inside the cabin or in the cargo area. If whatever device has to be triggered mannualy or via wifi to explode, having that in the cargo area takes that option away.

  20. @keitherson – that is an Australian government directive and nothing to do with EK. It applies to certain airports including the UAE and Hong Kong. Liquids over 100mL are not allowed in the cabin even if sealed in STEBs.

  21. @Tiffany: I really like your posts but I believe you are now just whining about this ban. It is not all that bad and it won’t really change people’s lives. Yes it is an inconvenience but that’s about it. You are probably way younger than me but I traveled when there were no planes at all. We had to ride on a cramped ship for 2 months just to get across the Atlantic…and I survived. You bloggers should just be thankful that we have the ability to fly.


  22. The more pertinent question is: would Emirates take responsibility for any damage or loss to devices checked into the hold using this service?

  23. I called this. I told my wife the other night after reading the ban that this is exactly what EK would have to do to keep biz travelers on board.

  24. If I’m flying out of Athens to JFK, but the flight originates from Dubai, does that mean that my flight will have the electronics ban? Or only if you’re a passenger originating in Dubai?

  25. Hopefully Royal Air Maroc follows suit. Flying out of Casablanca based on your flight review. Time will tell.

  26. So if the airline loses your luggage, your laptop is in there, you just have to deal with not having your laptop for however many days it takes for them to give your luggage back?


  27. How does the ban work on the Emirates flights from Dubai to Milan and New York and the similar Dubai to Athens to Newark or do they escape the ban as departing non-stop from Italy and Greece?
    Also how about the weight issue a lot of travellers are at their checked limit of say 2 x23kg for Emirates economy adding a laptop, tablet, camera and their associated bits and pieces could add 4-6kg to your luggage. Not sure how much time it would take to gate check the laptops, tablets, cameras etc of a full A380

  28. My two cents here:

    I won’t address political, economic or corporate ramifications of the service or the ban. Heck I’m going to be experiencing it personally next week and at least my stop at dxb is relatively short this time.

    Not sure the exact point when they deem “before boarding time” to collect the laptops. Will it be 30 minutes? 1 hour? 10 minutes? Right at the boarding gate as you walk down the ramp? Rather pertinent if they are trying to do any semblence of putting the laptops into say multiple boxes to be then loaded onto a shipping container. That said…CT scanners FOR air cargo containers do exist and are in use currently, however (example photo of one http://www.gate-tech.ru/upload/images/cx-pallet.jpg and if you’re of a more engineering mind you can read the IEEE abstract on the subject itself here http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/4659929/?reload=true).

    I would think DXB and AUH already take advantage of these types of systems considering the amount of air freight that comes in every day but who knows. Not sure how that will work for origin airports nonetheless or if they have those systems and lastly again…the logistics of when they actually collect the laptops would be…….”interesting”.

  29. Remember when it took 2 months in a cramped ship to cross the Atlantic?
    Santastico remembers!

    I remember when we had to use Montgolfier hot air balloons without any meal service to cross the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, not to mention having to walk 15 (pre-metric) miles to school fighting off hungry drop bears on the way

    You young bloggers haven’t a clue about inconvenience (shakes cane!)

  30. J Dee has a point! Looking at it from that prospective, no longer will the crying baby or toddler tantrum be the most annoying thing on the flight! Instead it will be the foot stomping cranky business person who has their electronics taken away!
    It is what it is people! Deal with it!

  31. I am at DXB enroute to Seattle having originated in Colombo. There I was asked to check my electronics but they allowed me to keep them when I said I planned to gate check them in Dubai. I’ll report back on how the handling goes. I could have lived without my laptop but not my Kindle for this 9 hour layover. (My Kindle is smaller than my telephone. Not sure why they’re included in the ban.)

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