What We Know About the New Electronics Ban

Just shy of 30 days after our current administration met with US Airline CEOs to discuss the state of their businesses (record breaking profits), news broke yesterday of a nearly full electronics ban on flights directly to the US from the Middle East and parts of Africa.  We wanted to wait until the full list was announced before writing about this story in hopes that we had heard wrong.  Unfortunately, we did not. 

Using potential terrorist threats as the reason, the US has demanded, and the UK shortly behind us, that ALL electronics, with the exception of cell phones and medical devices, must travel in your checked luggage only.  This includes laptops, camera equipment, iPads, Kindles, and much more.  Yep, you read that right. The Department of Homeland Security has created a Fact Sheet with all information.

The airlines affected have been identified as:

The airports affected are:

  • Riyadh
  • Kuwait City
  • Jeddah
  • Istanbul 
  • Doha
  • Dubai
  • Casablanca
  • Cairo
  • Abu Dhabi
  • Amman

I find it oddly convenient that the ME3 are included in this just a month after the US3 met with our current administration to discuss, wait for it, the ME3.  (ME3 = Middle Eastern Big Three Airlines; Emirates, Etihad, Qatar.  US3 = US Big Three; American, Delta, United) I find it even more concerning, especially when places like Abu Dhabi have US pre-clearance screening and haven't had any issues in the past with it.  (Delays are the only real issue)  The ME3 put our US carriers to shame when it comes to all aspects of travel and this looks, and feels, like they're trying to find a way to have people forcefully fly their airlines over much better options.  

Furthermore, these only apply to flights that are non-stop to the US as of now.  With the UK expecting to make the same announcement soon, the workarounds will be harder, but as of now, if you are traveling from Dubai to New York, via London, on Emirates, you're not subjected to these rules.  

This will affect business travelers the most.  Many business travelers carry-on only, use their laptops in-flight for work, or simply can't be parted with it due to company policy.  Many experts work with classified data and therefore cannot just take the risk of checking that information in a suitcase that we know someone will go through.  

I think the most concerning part of the entire "ban" is that it only applies to certain airlines.  If this were truly a security ban, it would affect the US carriers as well.  Also, if there was a true, and specific, terrorist threat, cell phones would also be included in the ban as they have the same capabilities as computers.  If someone is using a computer as a disguise for a bomb, stowing it away in the cargo hold does absolutely nothing.  It can still be set off (from the ground or from a cell phone) and the end result is the same.  Not to mention that many manufacturers of electronics specifically tell people to NOT check certain items as they pose more of a threat when subjected to extreme temperature swings.  

According to a Spokeswoman for Emirates, the ban will be in place until October 14th and will be re-evaluated before that if the threat still remains.  

We'll continue to provide more information as it becomes available.  I do ask that everyone take a minute though and realize that the airlines involved in this ban have nothing to do with this.  Taking it out on them via social media or refusing to fly their airlines "just because" are the exact actions I'm afraid the US carriers want.  I understand changing travel plans to accommodate the need for a laptop in flight or fear of losing tens of thousands of dollars in camera equipment, but put blame where blame is due please.  

Frances GulickComment