How Security Has Changed At Airports Since The Electronics Ban Was Lifted

Filed Under: Qatar, Travel Technology

In late June the US announced that they were implementing new security requirements for airports with nonstop flights to the US. Not surprisingly, they weren’t fully transparent about what this would entail, as I imagine it varies by airport, and includes things that we notice as passengers, as well as things that we don’t notice.

The silver lining of this change was that the electronics ban that was implemented in March for select airlines would be discontinued if the airports could meet the new safety requirements. At this point the electronics ban is over for eight of the nine airlines that were impacted by it — the only remaining airline is Saudia, and they hope to have the ban lifted within a week.

So, how has the experience changed if you’re departing from airports like Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, etc.?

Hans Mast shares the experience he had flying Qatar Airways on a US-bound flight out of Doha Airport after the ban was lifted. Since there’s a separate security check at the gate for US flights, he explained that passengers were asked prior to going through the gate security check if they had any electronic devices larger than a cell phone.

Those that did were directed to a separate line, where all of those electronics had to be removed. Then they used an explosives trace detector on those electronics, and then sealed them into a duty free bag, along with a seal sticker.

Then you go through the regular security procedures. Once you’re through that, you can remove your electronic devices from the duty free bags and repack however you’d like — there’s no need to leave them in those bags during the flight.

While this no doubt makes the security experience more time consuming than it was prior to March, this is an idea I can get behind, because I can see how it actually enhances security. Why this system wasn’t implemented in place of the electronics ban in the first place (which greatly increased the risk of fires in the cargo hold) is beyond me.

I’m curious if this is just being done on flights that were previously impacted by the electronics ban, or if it will spread to other airports as well.

If you’ve taken an international US-bound flight in the past week or so, did you notice any new security measures?

  1. I just flew back from Abu Dhabi to New York JFK on July 8th, there was no special security measures regarding my electronics (laptop and camera). Just as a data point.

  2. Interestingly, had recent experience in terms of enhanced processes in the US. At DCA last week was told could no longer take corkscrews in cabin baggage due to the small foil cutter. Never had issues previously with corkscrew. Or maybe just the one occasion TSA were diligent??

  3. In my experience, Qatar always had more onerous secondary security procedures than the UAE carriers, so it does not surprise me that DOH would have a more onerous experience than AUH. Doesn’t sound terrible on the face of it, but the secondary check at DOH (done at the gate) can get long and the guards can be obnoxious.

  4. Note that the electronics ban was temporary until they implemented these measures. Its easy to say why didn’t they do this first. They needed time to implement this system. I don’t believe the electronics ban was ever meant to be permanent.

  5. Just flew through Istanbul back to the US and didn’t have to do any special screening for electronics. They did have additional gate security where I had to pass by 3 (!) security staff who checked my passport in some computer system and put a sticker on my passport. The last person went though a cursory view inside my bags and I opened my laptop to confirm it worked but no swabs and no check for my iPad.

  6. Uh, so, what exactly does temporarily sealing your laptop in a duty-free bag accomplish?

    Imagine that the guy standing next to you has a bomb in his laptop. Now imagine he has a bomb in his laptop inside a sealed plastic bag. Whew, I think I’d feel MUCH safer in the second situation than the first.

  7. @ snic:

    It’s to indicate to the security officers in the “regular” line that the laptop/electronic device has gone through the explosives screening. Did you read the article? As soon as the traveller has passed through the regular screening line, he or she can remove the electronics from the bag.

  8. Have spent what seems like half my life flying around the Middle East and Europe over a few decades, and experienced the best and worst of airport security. The first flight I took out of the US (LAX-LHR, June 7) after the laptop security ban (yes, I know it is about flights into the US, but you would imagine if this is based on a threat then there would be enhanced overall security) and I was stunned by how poor security was. No requirement to even remove laptops from your luggage, let alone have them scanned separately. No separate clear-bagging of liquids, no apparent (apparent) restrictions on more than 100ml, and no check for water bottles. So what is the message – that terror threats always come from overseas airports? Hmmm. Maybe there is some precedent here that really does not need pointing out…

  9. I flew through Doha last September to Australia, and had my laptop swabbed for explosives, and I had to prove that it turned on. Looks like the only thing that has changed for US flights is that devices are now put in a bag.

  10. @Christopher – is it possible that LAX was running a canine around in the screening area? I’ve see. This has been a regular occurrence at PHX for a while, and was the case just two weeks ago at LAS. When they use a canine “sniffer” dog, you may not even notice them being walked around, but everybody gets precheck treatment, which is essentially what you describe (no electronics removal, no serious liquids check, etc).

  11. Took my first international flight from US to Europe since the announcement of enhanced security and no electronics ban. SEA->AMS on July 4. There were 3 Customs agents and a dog on the jetway when we were boarding. My daughter was using her Go Pro since it was her first international flight. Customs agent made her delete the video, since she captured them on it.

    Flying back to the US next week, will see what AMS->SEA security looks like.

  12. I flew DXB to IAD on 7th July just after the ban was lifted. I flew business and boarded directly out of the lounge. Additional security check on electronics was in place including explosive trace test, however items were not placed in bags afterwards. Experience was pretty painless and didn’t seem to cause any major delay even though the flight was almost full in business

  13. Just left PHX and they were a part of a testing program where ALL electronics had to come out of bags and placed in separate bins for screening…including iPads, Kindles and phones. My wife forgot to take out one of the smaller devices that would normally be OK to stay in the bag and got a secondary/enhanced inspection because of it. There was some small paper signage prior to the X-ray machine and a TSA officer was verbally telling people. As such, it slowed down the process a bit as everyone had to take everything out. First domestic airport where I have seen this done.

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