Etihad’s Puzzling Approach To The Electronics Ban

Filed Under: Etihad, Travel Technology

With the US electronics ban about to be implemented, airlines are outlining their policies for how they’re going to deal with this. Both Emirates and Turkish have announced that they’ll let passengers take their electronics all the way to the gate, and will then allow passengers to check them there. They’ll be securely packaged, and upon arrival in the US they’ll separately be brought out to passengers.

I appreciate the effort they’re putting into the system. While it doesn’t totally solve the problems the electronics ban causes, at least I feel they’re doing what they can to minimize the risk of electronics being stolen or damaged, and are also minimizing how long passengers will be separated from them.

Well, now Etihad has announced their electronics ban policy, and it’s… confusing.

Etihad-Arrivals-Lounge-Abu-Dhabi - 1

Here’s their press release:

Effective March 25, passengers on all US-bound flights from, or transiting through, Abu Dhabi International Airport will not be permitted to carry electronic devices bigger than a smart phone or mobile into the aircraft cabin.

Items such as laptop computers, tablets including iPads, gaming devices, cameras and e-readers will be required to be placed in checked-in luggage. Medical devices are exempt and can be carried onboard.

US-bound passengers traveling via Abu Dhabi must check-in their electronic devices at the point of origin. The directive, issued by the US Transportation Security Administration, does not affect flights departing from the United States.

At Abu Dhabi International Airport, all Etihad Airways guests traveling to the United States clear US Immigration and Customs at the US Preclearance facility in Terminal 3 – the only one of its kind in the Middle East. When guests land in the US, they arrive as domestic passengers with no requirement to queue for immigration checks again. Due to the additional security measures, Etihad Airways will deploy more staff at the US Preclearance facility to provide assistance.

Guests must pack the prohibited items in their checked baggage prior to reaching the Preclearance facility in Abu Dhabi. Any prohibited electronic devices will have to be declared and placed in padded envelopes before being securely taken to the aircraft luggage hold by staff.  Such items will be returned to guests on arrival in the US, while conveniently, other items of checked-in luggage can be collected at the final destination in the United States.

The press release very clearly states that all electronics need to be checked at the point of origin prior to going to the gate, so it sure seems like Etihad isn’t taking the same approach as Emirates and Turkish.

Now, in fairness Etihad has a US Pre-Clearance facility, meaning that passengers have to clear US immigration before even being able to get to their gate. I imagine the electronic device screening will be done at that facility, rather than at the gate. However, you’d think the solution would be that they would collect electronic devices right in front of the facility. It shouldn’t be much more complicated than any other carrier’s setup.


While Etihad does state you need to place your electronics into your checked bags, they also say “any prohibited electronic devices will have to be declared and placed in padded envelopes before being securely taken to the aircraft luggage hold by staff.” So while they’re encouraging people to check electronics, it’s not a “use it or lose it” situation in the event that you don’t check your electronics, at least based on how I read it.

Regardless, assuming Etihad means what they say, this is certainly the least customer friendly policy we’ve seen so far from an airline subjected to the ban. I have a hard enough time being separated from my electronics, but just checking them at the point of origin is something I could never do in good conscience.

  1. Why is this considered puzzling? It seems similar to Emirate’s approach. People will forget/refuse to surrender electronics until the last moment so gate checking seems a necessary service.

  2. With the pre-departure immigration and customs, why can US officers check the devices there and determine they are safe? #resist

  3. I am flying Colombo-Abu Dhabi-Dallas early in April. If you haven’t heard by then how this all works in practice by then, I’ll be happy to drop you an email of my experience with how it works.

    What I am doing in preparation for this flight is I have purchased what is marketed as a portable safe. I don’t ever travel with a laptop, so this would be for other indispensible electronics. I don’t know that it’d deter any theft or keep the item safe, but it was the best I could come up with.

  4. @ Anthoney Thomas

    Because it doesn’t affirmatively state one option or the other, and they are mutually exclusive.
    There’s also a possibility that security staff at other airports (e.g. In the Far East, such as SIN, HKG, BKK etc.) either don’t know about the ban or don’t know the rules fully. So whilst Etihad is promising to check the electronic devices if people ‘forget’ to pack them, security staff at other airports might let them through or even worse bin them before they get to AUH.
    On another note, last time I checked the UK (my country) and the USA are democracies, and the public has a right to know why this ban is justified, and that means more than just saying for security. If anything publicising that the authorities are aware what the risks are is a deterrent. Regardless, the average law abiding democratic citizen should not have to suffer for the sake of a few idiots. I personally don’t mind checking my laptop in, so I wouldn’t be suffering, but given a lot of people are unhappy with this it seems undeomcratic to me.

  5. I don’t travel o Etihad, but I have a flight mid-April with Qatar Airways direct ex DOH. I was checked with them on twitter and it seems that they have a similar policy to Etihad. I was told if I check in online and have carry on only, then they will be taken at the gate and returned upon landing. It is not exactly the same as the handling service announced by Emirates in the way that it is not proactively offer by QR. My guess is that QR wants to minimize the number of people who would want to gate-check their electronics and would hope that most passengers will store them in checked luggage. Sounds a bit cheap by Qatar. To be honest I think it will be a mess at the gate in DOH. Usually it is chaos at US departure gates and things will get worse by this electonics ban. Just based on previous experience with US departures, I believe EK will do a much better job. Will see.

  6. Etihad is being cheap. Essentially they are saying, there is a way we can take your laptops at the gates, but we rather you check it through and save us the hassle and cost.

  7. Etihad sure is proud that it has provided all the convenience and happiness that a USA pre-clearance facility can create. Fast, efficient boarding and easy access to the USA without unnecessary security concerns is a valuable contribution to happy travel. And the USA has paid them back for their cooperation richly and handsomely.

    Let this be a lesson for the next country that considers a pre-clearance facility.

    @Bill “With the pre-departure immigration and customs, why can US officers check the devices there and determine they are safe?”

    There is no concern about whether the devices are safe, so checking cannot alleviate the concern. The concern is that ME3 carriers are more pleasant and convenient than US3 carriers and are eating their lunch. The solution is to make flying ME3 less pleasant and convenient.

  8. Wow… so to you, your laptop is worth more than your security.
    You neee to get your priorities sorted.
    And before you say that it doesn’t sound logical – the US, and many other countries face threats from terrorist groups on a daily basis. If this ban helps reduce there ability to cause harm, then it should be welcomed. You may not know why this ban helps, but think about it – why would the government make public how to disguise explosives or how they got their information.

  9. You stated that Etihad’s policy is the least customer friendly I have to disagree.

    QATAR and ETIHAD are both equally bad and insensitive to the customer needs for security of their expensive electronics devices. Turkish is the very best and I wish I had a way to switch. My QR flight made using AAdvantage miles cannot be cancelled without large cancellation fees.

  10. @James Because it has nothing to do with security or your safety. This is a trade tactic. And when the liquid ban was implemented there was clear reasoning and explanation as to why and the public understood the reasoning. You need to see the light, dude.

    What is sad in seeing your comment is to imagine that people actually believe that this is about a threat. Yeah, from a few airports, but not Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

  11. @Bill n DC…asking a custom official to conduct a security check on a laptop is like asking a cop to put out a fire or a firefighter to arrest a murderer. Could you train them up to check devices, sure. But that’s not their primary job. I think the more puzzling issue is if these flights come in as domestic flights passengers don’t clear security. So if we don’t trust the security of electronic devices out of the pre-clearance facility, why on earth would we continue to not require these flights to reclear security in the US. One of the many flaws. Who knows maybe that is coming next.

  12. It’s only puzzling because you’re described it in such a weird way… “Check in your electrical items, if you don’t then we’ll check them for you at the security checkpoint” – incredibly simple!

  13. It isn’t puzzling. Your lack of understanding is what’s puzzling. You are precisely the foolish traveler they are trying to deal with-you’ll try to lie and hide your electronics by putting them in a carry on and going through security. Then they’ll have to deal with making sure they take your electronics you’ve tried to sneak on after you’ve already dropped off your checked bag. What are they supposed to do about you? Also I don’t think it’s them being cheap. Commenters on here are just showing their spoiled privilege. Buy a bloody book and check your electronics.

  14. I certainly don’t want my laptop or iPad mini stolen (the fact that e-readers or the iPad mini is on the list bamfuzzles me). But what I need to know is whether or not I can take my portable hard drive (with all my data on it) in the cabin with me. It’s smaller than the iPhone 7.

    Normally, I could handle this better, but I got stuck overseas when the ban came into place.

    Anyone have any ideas about whether or not something that is 7.5cm x 10.5cm x .5 cm will pass?

  15. LOL @ James, this ban DOES NOT HELP! They are NOT doing a TOTAL ban of electronics so a terrorist can still bring electronics on aircraft. These electronics can still be detonated in the hold. Even the former head of airport security of Ben Gurion International Airport says not only does this ban NOT help, it actually INCREASES the danger, and, dude, he know far far more about protecting airports and airlines than you ever will in a hundred lifetimes.
    I just hope you are not an American lol.

  16. I think this ban is more to do with new USA Administration in cahoots with the US Airlines industry and not able to stand the competition from these airlines which have been affected by this ban

  17. See the Updated Info on Etihad website.

    Following a directive from U.S. authorities, we have been advised that guests travelling to the United States from Abu Dhabi International Airport are not permitted to carry electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone on board.

    Mobile phones spare lithium batteries, power banks and medical devices are permitted but larger items including laptops, tablets, larger cameras and e-readers will need to be placed into checked-in baggage.

    We encourage all guests to do this at the start of any US-bound journey. However, guests wishing to carry their larger electronic devices to Abu Dhabi Airport will be guided to a re-packing point before screening at the airport’s US Immigration facility. You will be asked to pack these items into specially provided secure cases, which will be stored in the aircraft’s cargo hold, for your collection on arrival in the US.

    The ban does not affect flights leaving from the US towards Abu Dhabi and beyond. Any guests travelling to the UK via Abu Dhabi are not affected by the directive from the UK authorities for UK-bound travel.

  18. I just got this email from Etihad. Looks like they will be offering ipads and free wifi for business & first customers traveling to the US.


    To help you keep in touch with work, friends and family, we are offering our First and Business Class guests free Wi-Fi and iPads on all our US bound flights from Abu Dhabi.

    Wi-Fi vouchers will be provided by our cabin crew with your onboard welcome drink, providing free Wi-Fi for the duration of the flight. In addition, we’ll have iPads available for those that need them. Power and USB sockets at every seat will keep your devices charged.

  19. As commented above, the ME3 (Qatar, Emirates, Etihad) that the US has just introduced a nasty Non Tarif Barrier to penalise them and try to drive people to the relatively grim US international airlines. I have seen no other even vaguely logical explanation for the selective ban.

  20. Today, Etihad made my check in my iPad and laptop from the origin (MEL) as they claim to not longer offer the gate side service in Abu Dhabi… I was hoping to have my iPad for the first 14 hr leg of my journey to catch up on work

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