Will The Electronics Ban Change Which Airlines I Fly?

Filed Under: Emirates, Etihad

Reader David W asked the following question in the Ask Lucky forum:

@Lucky @Tiffany and anyone else:

Will you be making changes to existing flights that are affected as well as changing plans that are in the works?

I can’t speak for Tiffany or anyone else, though I will share my perspective. As I assume just about everyone knows at this point, there are restrictions on electronic devices in the cabins of planes for nonstop flights from:

As of now this isn’t a temporary ban that’s just lasting a few day, but rather it’s in effect indefinitely. Let’s keep in mind that originally the liquids ban in the U.S. was rumored to be a temporary measure, though it now applies globally on most commercial flights. To me it’s terrifying to think that this policy may spread.

How this ban impacts me

This isn’t intended to be a “woe is me” statement (instead it’s in response to David’s question), but this ban will have a massive impact on my “work.” My job is quite literally to fly on airlines and review and share my experiences on them. I spend most of my time on planes working. This is quite literally a normal “office view” for me:


So this ban is problematic for me for a few reasons:

  • Part of the reason I can justify flying so much is because I can be productive while I fly. While I fly 400,000+ miles per year, in reality I don’t have nearly as much lost productivity as that would suggest, given that I’m always working on planes. I’m often most productive in spurts, like when I’m waiting for a flight to board, etc.
  • Beyond the huge potential of direct lost productivity by not being able to work on some flights, my other concern is a lost or damaged laptop. Even with backing up data, etc., the lost productivity from having a laptop stolen or broken could be massive.

Will the electronics ban impact my travels?

Yes, unfortunately. I can’t in good conscience check my laptop, in terms of the risk, in terms of the lost productivity of not being able to work while I fly, etc. It’s simply not worth it to me.

So as much as I was hoping to review several airlines based in countries that are on the electronics ban list, it looks like I’ll have to wait. And that’s sad, because there are quite a few products I wanted to try, like Kuwait’s new first class, Saudia’s new first class, Turkish business class, MEA business class, etc.

I guess one possible solution would be to only fly these airlines in one direction, from the U.S. or U.K. to their hubs, rather than the other way around. Perhaps I’ll do that.

I’m really happy I didn’t take advantage of those great Qatar Airways fares business class fares from the U.S. to Asia a while back, because I’d definitely be canceling them. That would be costly, since there are no travel waivers in place. I don’t have any other trips booked on the Gulf carriers at the moment, and will keep it that way.

Bottom line

I can’t imagine the impact this is going to have on the Gulf carriers, especially for flights to the U.S., which is among their biggest market. Obviously they’re trying to downplay the impact of this, by saying that they have great inflight entertainment, etc.

However, I suspect this is going to have a catastrophic effect on demand for travel on them, especially among business travelers.

As much as I’d like to think this will just last a few days, I highly doubt it. I’m curious if the impacted airlines will somehow get creative. I don’t know how, but I almost wonder if some Gulf carriers will plan “security” stops in Europe, so that passengers can bring their electronics in the cabin. After all, Emirates’ flights from Dubai to Milan to New York, and Dubai to Athens to Newark, aren’t impacted by this ban.

It’s the same reason Pakistan isn’t subjected to this restriction, since their U.S. bound flights stop in Manchester.

To what extent will the electronics ban impact the airlines you fly? Will you change any existing bookings as a result of it? Will it change the airlines you book going forward? Or no?

  1. I have a trip LAX-DOH-SIN and back next month, and I expect I’ll still fly it. The ban will affect only one of the four segments, and I’m hoping/expecting that QR will have some kind of valet-checking system in place, at least for business class passengers. That won’t do anything about the forced-downtime issue, but there are certainly ways to minimize the concern regarding risk of loss or damage.

  2. I wonder if the ME3 will get creative and provide business class passengers with airline issued laptops and free wi-fi to use for the duration of the flight (if they can get TSA approval for that). That would at least allow people to be productive in-flight, granted it’s not the same as having your own device…but it still doesn’t solve the problem of having to check in your laptop. A possible solution for that would be to create a special laptop check-in process that would be safe and secure with guaranteed return upon landing. All such a hassle…but maybe a temporary solution.

  3. When travelling by plane I sometimes look around to see what other people are doing. And honestly, it’s not like white airplane is gazing at their laptops/iPads. I also have to work while flying but even for correcting papers, presentation or evens writing I can use my pen and paper. As for reading work files – I am usually printing them anyway. And you can always use the computer in lounge. So I don’t this that this is such a big problem for most people when it comes to work. Stealing laptops from main luggage is different problem thought.

  4. “And that’s sad, because there are quite a few products I wanted to try, like Kuwait’s new first class, Saudia’s new first class, Turkish business class, MEA business class, etc.”

    It shouldn’t have a huge impact on your work. You can still try many of these airlines and their products, you’ll just have to be more creative in how you plan your trips. For example, you don’t have to fly MEA to London, you can fly it to and from Paris instead and still get the same product. Fly Turkish to Canada or Asia. Same with Saudia or any of the other airlines.

    And if it’s true, this ban is only on flights to the US/UK, and not from them. So you can fly out of those countries. do a layover in the airline’s country your are flying on, and continue on that same airline to another destination (if only to experience their home base lounge).

    Honestly, your work shouldn’t be affected too much. The people who will really be affected are people traveling to the US/UK from those countries for work on a regular basis. I know someone living in Saudi Arabia who has to fly back to his company’s home office in the UK once a month. Now his traveling will really be affected…

  5. So between this ban and wanting to wait for El Al’s 787s later in the year, did you want to try the only ME airline NOT part of the ban sooner, or wait for the 787s?

  6. Well I can imagine that not being able to take a camera on board will definitely impact your work, in addition to a lack of laptop. Sure, you will use your phone instead, but it won’t be quite the same.

  7. I have to think that trex is correct, and that the affected airlines are scrambling to buy laptops for passengers in first and biz. I would think that lots of biz travelers (including you, Lucky) could be productive with an airline-issued laptop and free wifi to upload and download files from the cloud.

  8. It will be interesting to see what happens to pax travelling from China to the US via the UAE or Qatar. Chinese regulations prohibit the carrying of electronic devices in checked baggage…

  9. Unless the Canadian government follows this ban, I suspect Toronto YYZ and Montreal YUL could benefit if Americans need to fly from some of the affected spots. Turkish, Emirates, EgyptAir and Qatar all fly directly into one, or both of these airports. What hassle the TSA gives from passengers from these flights commuting from Canada to the US is anyone’s guess though.

  10. This is additionally sad because it will decrease tourism to the United States, which will impact countless people working in the hospitality industry.

  11. Giving laptops to customer for the duration of the flight really doesn’t solve the problem. It might work for Lucky but most larger organizations are likely to prohibit or limit the use of non-corporate laptops for processing corporate information/data.

  12. We just cancelled three business class award tickets (using Mileage Plus miles) on Turkish from ATH-IST-SFO and booked revenue tickets on LH and UA.

    It is simply not worth the stress.

    We are currently routed SFO-IST-ATH on the way over and it was simply too expensive to book revenue tickets on those flights so we are stuck with Turkish and have to keep our fingers crossed.

    I will not book any more tickets on Turkish from Europe to the USA going forward.

  13. I’m surprised that we haven’t seen His Excellency all over TV pointing out the insane logic and questionable motives behind this ban. Even better would be Tim Clark since he is much more credible in an interview. I can’t imagine that Emirates and Qatar are just going to take this lying down.

  14. Would anyone feel safe checking their laptop or expensive cameras? I certainly wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do my job without my laptop. Currently, I’m not affected Hopefully it is temporary and most of all, that it doesn’t spread to all airlines, all routes.

  15. I’m a photographer and would never put 10K of camera equipment in checked bags – Even if they were pelican cases. I would rather cancel might flight and book a new one through an unaffected route.

  16. Hey Ben, if you ever wanted to fly Emirates again to/fro the US, you can fly that 5th freedom they have now from Athens to Newark, in total, from Dubai to Athens to Newark and vice versa. Just a suggestion………in case you wanted to review EK’s new 777 J class product when retrofitted,or whatever else. Or as always you could fly from the US and not be affected, but I guess that takes away from the lounge experience back at the airliners hub, but anyways just an idea out there.

  17. my plan (if I need to fly one of the ‘banned’ airlines to the US) is to bring an old laptop/tablet and check it.
    Though for business travelers, of course that will not work.

  18. @lucky I dont understand this…How is it that the PIA flight is OK to continue on to the US?? Do they make the passengers deplane and then go through security again??!! Same with the Emirates flights that go through MXP or ATH? What sense would that make if the don’t deplane???

  19. I am still not clear if my flight this summer will be affected by the ban. I am flying with my family to BKK in early June on… you gussed it! Qatar!
    We come back late June on our flight BKK-DOH-MIA
    Can anybody tell me if we are affected by the ban? Our fkight starts in BKK but we have the layover in DOH and I don’t even know if we are getting our luggage back at DOH and have to check it from DOH to MIA or if it goes direct. So, if we flight with electronics from BKK to DOH and don’t get our bags in DOH, what happens?

  20. @Paola yes under existing rules your BKK-DOH-MIA flight will be impacted. Things could of course change again by then. As to you more detailed questions I think that is still TBD because we haven’t seen out QR is going to implement the rules.

  21. This will impact me mostly because I don’t want to check anything (I take one carry on with everything in it). I don’t need my devices on board but I don’t want to risk checking them. At this point I’ll route around the issues and like Ron I’ll will do my best to avoid US carriers when doing so.

  22. My firm in Pakistan produces very cheap laptops that you can use for rent for cheap. We have tie ups with airlines and you can bring these laptop onboard. Just be discretw. OK? No problem.

    Prices are very cheap. We just ask that you help us produce a marketing tape saying “god is great” in front of a black background. Please contact soon.

  23. Want to know why Donald Trump won the election? It’s not because people are racists or bigots, no that’s too easy of an explanation.

    It’s because the majority people are idiots who are more concerned about about being entertained/ amused rather than actually spending their time making rational decisions.

    Same reason why people like the Kardashians and the Cash me outside girl are famous. Same reason why Pewdiepie has 50 million subscribers, while the Dalai Lama only has 5000.

    It’s why the shows like the Bachelor gets millions of views while shows like Nova fairs far worse. It’s the exact same reason why people major in stuff like gender studies and other poor performing majors then complain about not being able to land a quality job.

    People are more concerned about banning Muslims and same sex marriage than making sure that their family’s health insurance/ standard of living won’t be impacted.

    We the people are becoming a nation of cry babies and self-entitled spoiled pussies because we let little things like the so-called Muslim Airlines get into our own safe space cribs and we make a big fuss out of it out of the blue for no apparent reason whatsoever.

    Ever wonder why the UK has such a Solid relationship with these particular Liberal Muslim Countries such as Qatar and UAE? So Grow up America, get a life already and try to watch some international coverage because NOT all Muslims are truly terrorists, because without them, your employees at Boeing and Airbus plants will be out of jobs in months and years, if not days. You should thank them for keeping the aviation industry in business, not trying to kiss their ass good-bye to their business deals that they are trying to make up to you.

  24. I will be avoiding the affected airlines (although thankfully the U.K. Has taken a less draconian stance with regards to the ME3.

    It’s not so much the lack of my laptop on board, I tend not to work on board anyway, or even the thought of checking a laptop, (although I would not be keen to do this) my main issue would be flying with a mass of li-ion batteries in the hold, quite probably badly packed and at risk of damage… no thanks.

  25. I disagree with the ban, although it probably won’t affect me too much. I mostly travel for leisure and usually just bring an iPad (for reading and sometimes watching shows) and pocket camera in my carry on. I can live without these for a flight, even though I’d certainly rather have them with me.

  26. Ben I understand how this would impact you, and your response is what I expected. I have flights on Turkish airlines in a month booked with United miles. It is a vacation so I can get away with just cell phones, although it is not ideal. The other person traveling with me has an embedded medical device and while there is an exemption for medical devices I am expecting thorough checking to make sure it is one. I am preparing to get documentation in all appropriate languages for our trip for the device. I am more concerned what ban will come next with short or no notice. I tried calling United and getting a supervisor to create a savor space on United metal, because there are no savor awards for dates of travel. That was a no go, but they were willing to waive change fees if savor space becomes available. I would much rather fly Turkish, but I will keep checking for savor space because I am concerned about future bans.

  27. Your post is yet another reminder that there’s a significant chance these rules are designed not to counter a real security risk, but as a gimme to US and UK carriers who feel their business has been negatively impacted by Gulf carriers.

    Until security agencies are more forthcoming about the threat they’re responding to, I can see this only as pork wrapped in an unrealistic paranoia about terrorism.

  28. @Lucky

    Can you not just buy a keyboard and link it to your iPhone and do some work with it??

    Also can I ask is the ban affect duty free shopping at airports? e.g. can I buy a cheap laptop to use on flight instead?

  29. I think the ban has nothing to do with security and a lot to do with making things difficult for ME3. Who needs to go to the court if you have Donald sitting in a commanding position. This action will affect ME3 business in a huge way and that is what big US airlines are looking for. Personally I will keep flying ME3 since US airlines are not worth my money when it comes to premium class. There is a good outcome though: I will have more award availability 😉

  30. With the new $329 / $429 iPads – not as much investment. Maybe these new ones (similar to the discontinued iPad Air2) will be the popular to check.

    I think the issue is less about having to check the laptop, but for many, it may be the idea of having to check a bag.

  31. Lucky: how many hours do you really spend typing something on your laptop while on a plane? You can still bring your iPhone so you can take very good quality pictures. While on the plane you spend time taking pictures, eating, drinking, showering and sleeping. Thus, although not having your laptop with you would be an inconvenience I don’t think it would be that huge of a problem. Yes, it is not nice to check a laptop but you could get a cheap laptop for these specific trips so in case it is damaged or stolen it would not be a big deal. You can use a cloud system to store your files and I assume you don’t use any sophisticated software but mainly an internet browser, Word, etc… so again you can be productive with a cheap laptop, a high capacity pen drive and cloud.

    I believe the most inconvenience will be for business travelers since many corporations won’t allow employees to check their computers.

  32. If this lasts for a longer time I bet we could see the gulf airlines get really creative, such as providing laptops to passengers to use in flight, it would be cheaper than a tech stop in Europe. I.e bring your work on a thumb drive or put it in the cloud.

  33. @Nate and @Santastico
    Lucky said “I’m often most productive in spurts, like when I’m waiting for a flight to board, etc.”. That means he is most productive when he is in the lounge or the waiting area. How does he sleeps a lot in the plane or buying a cheap laptop has anything to do with it? Once you checked the laptop at check-in counter you don’t have access to it a the lounge or the waiting area. What is wrong with people’s comprehension ability nowadays?

  34. @alinsfca
    Actually, Emirates announced this morning that they will let passengers keep their laptops until they board the aircraft, presumably for precisely this reason. I don’t know the details.

    I can’t see the security logic, though. If there is something sinister in a laptop, surely the worst thing to do is get it together with all of the other similar objects and then put them all on the flight together.

  35. Wouldn’t another option be to fly one of those airlines to another country, such as Canada, then connect to a flight home from there?

  36. I m not working anymore while on plane and as an european not very impacted by the ban but we all know whom are behind that ban….on my side just cancelled two trips on American for Qatar to Australia….
    Me and my partner have decided to ban the US.

  37. Hey Lucky, maybe this is the trigger to switch to the cloud?
    I’m using an Apple at home, but travel usually with a Chromebook – all my work documents, photos, etc are stored in the Google Cloud, there is very little data on the laptop and it’s cheap – my current one was all of $129. If it is lost, broken or stolen, it’s no big deal at that cost and none of my data is compromised. I just log in from any other computer and keep on going!
    And before people claim “you can’t do anything with Chrome OS” – that’s no longer the case. You can work on all Google docs, incl. word, spreadsheets, etc as well as photos while offline. It’lll synchronize the next time you connect. And with Android coming to Chromebooks, there is little that you can’t find an app for.
    And several new ones, like the Asus Flip C302 or Samsung Chromebook are convertibles you can use in tablet mode and are pretty high-end with metal bodies etc. Worth checking out!

  38. Not only will this be effecting those with laptops/ipads but what about those commercial photographers who have to fly via the Middle East to the US for a job? No way would they put tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear in the luggage hold. That is just crazy.

  39. Isn’t the liquid “ban” really just a business tactic to get you to purchase an over priced bottle of water past security? Maybe this is just another business tactic to get you to buy electronics past security too?

  40. Currently at Cairo airport heading to London. My laptop and £5k of camera gear is now in my suitcase! Hoping to see it all when I arrive at Heathrow. This new measure will be a real problem for me as a travel photographer and I really hope this isn’t extended to all countries.

  41. @Bernardo Ng

    In case you don’t know, flying from HKG to USA ban any water, even you bought it past security. I know this from experience, yes, I was surprised the first time. I can carry water from USA to HKG, but not coming back. I been to HKG many time since and its the same old drill at the gate to remove any water.

  42. We live in Riyadh, so we are affected, however, not terribly.

    When we fly west, we transfer either in London, Paris or in Germany (Frankfurt or Munich). So, transfers in London are now out. Too bad as I truly enjoyed T5 in Heathrow (British Airways). No changes when we fly east.

    While I very rarely use my laptop in the air or at the transfer points, there is no way I’m checking it in. My carry-on luggage is usually composed of laptop / mobile / camera / USB drives / AC adapters and maybe sundries.

    As others have noted, this does nothing to prevent would-be terrorists targeting US / UK. They are not allergic to transfers in Europe. In fact, over the past two years, most were from Europe.

    I am not against an additional ‘five-point’ check-up before I board to have my carry-on vetted. Details could be worked out if everyone really has security as their main focus.

  43. The ME3 could anounce that due to the impact of this electronics ban they have to cost cut. They are having to move to an all airbus fleet and putting all their Boeings up for sale. With a large chunk of used Boeings hitting the market watch the market for new Boeings go dead suddenly for 2-3 years. Hello plant closures.
    Also a large number of US troops are based in UAE. Add additional security screenings and other hassles to their daily lives e.g Dont allow us officers to bring laptops to planning meetings. Force them to project from cellphones and take notes on cellphones. All for security of course.

  44. @Lucky I hope you do fly those airlines you mention from the US – at least that way we’d get the reviews …

    Question: which airlines have a USB port in Business? The main impact for me would be on my viewing (I prefer to watch my own stuff). Can I take a USB and plug that in on the plane?

  45. I think its absolutely unfortunate how Americans and Brits are so willing to trade their freedom for a minuscule amount of fake security. [Of course, I also think its even more dreadful how some countries have allowed their resources to be used to aid and abet terrorism in the first instance]. Traveling in the USA has already become a horrible indignity. Although I am usually forced to bear some of these indignities, I will avoid them when I can. There is absolutely no way that I will fly on my reservations which would have be checking my laptop and require me sit for 14 hours while I wonder if it will come out on the other side — there isn’t enough Prozac in the world for me to be able to bear that torture. I also can’t justify billing a client for Business Class travel if I can’t work en route, and in any case just can’t have a hole in my agenda when I am completely unable to get any work done at all. I will use a different transit point or build in an extra stop as necessary, and I imagine there will be some trips which I just won’t make do to the added hassle.

  46. After reading this post, It is easy to understand, that this ban has one target only: making (full fare) business travellers to avoid Gulf carriers and Turkish in favour of US and European Airlines on their ways to West/East-Asia. This ban is ‘America first’ protectionism hidden behind some security-issues.

  47. Lucky, maybe you can start taking the nonstops to GRU from CMN/DOH/DXB/IST. I think Emirates does nonstop to GIG as well. You can connect back to North America from GRU. That will give opportunities to relax in S. America, a few more hours in the “office” with electronics allowed, and a cool story of creatively getting around the restrictions.

    You can also do things like take ME3 to AKL/JNB and connect back to N. America from New Zealand and South Africa.

  48. @Chris

    I am also interested if either wired or bluetooth portable keyboards are allowed. And what about wired and bluetooth mice? Curious if Lucky would be able to get by with just his smartphone and these items.

  49. Does anyone know if kindles and e-readers are included in the ban? I would be ok without a laptop, but it would be difficult for me without my kindle for a long flight like that. I have the kindle app on my smartphone but prefer the e-ink screens when reading for long periods on a flight.

  50. It is not the lack of electronics that is so terrible.
    It is not that usually I don’t originate in the ME3 airports.(I cannot use electronics in all legs of the flight)
    It is not even the risk of theft of damage to the electronic items.
    The #1 issue is, you now have to check a bag instead of carrying on.

  51. maybe it’s time to stop flying airlines of countries that imprison or kill people for being gay? Seems they’re the only ones on the list at the moment.

  52. Already part way through our 3 week trip in Far East on Qatar, going home next week through Doha…
    We have laptops, ipads, cameras .. and now a new bag to accommodate them… argh 36 hours with no gadgets and the worry they will not make it home has spoilt this fantastic trip….

  53. Seems like to me the simple truth is that the airlines are trying to collect more revenue from checked bag fees. If you’re the sort that wants to bring a lap top or tablet on a trip, which is pretty much everyone, you’ll have to check a bag and unless your traveling premium cabin, you’re paying that fee to bring your much needed device/ information. Also I’m sure more people than ever will sign up/pay for Apple care and similar products as well as extra cloud storage or other insurance on devices in response to pending damages and possible lose of data. I’m guessing airports will start setting up kiosks or vending machines selling data storage and device damage insurance! Ever noticed how every gift shop at every airport is fully stocked with minimum 2 or 3 brands of bottled water now?

  54. Writing to you from Gate 218 at Istanbul Ataturk on March 26th for Turkish Airlines flight to San Francisco. Writing to you on my iPhone 6 Plus. Would have preferred to have my laptop with me on the plane, but the new check in process has not been that bad. Left my iPad in my checked bag. Carried my Mac Book Pro with me to the gate. At the gate they have a half dozen special security on hand. Laptop registered in a log book. Wrapped in bubble wrap, and then stored with others in a hardshell cargo box. Receipt in hand. Fairly efficient. Will let you know of any problems upon arrival at SFO.

  55. Electronics shmelectronics. I’m sick and tired of these stories. Deal with it. Make America Safe Again. Hail Trump.

  56. Electronics shmelectronics. I’m sick and tired of these stories. Deal with it. Make America Safe Again. Hail !

  57. Its absolutely affected my travel plans. I travel with 2 laptops, ipad, 3 phones, still & video cameras, as well as 5 tb of portable storage. No way on gods green earth I trust those items in checked baggage.

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