The U.S. and U.K. bans on laptops and other large electronic devices onboard flights from certain Middle East and North Africa countries likely will last months, not days or weeks, according to International SOS.
ISOS advises corporate travelers who must travel through affected countries to take extra precautions to secure their devices before checking them. This includes locking luggage with U.S. Transportation Security Administration-approved locks, moving sensitive information off checked items onto the cloud or a shared drive and leaving behind nonessential electronic devices.
In addition, passengers should allow extra time for security procedures when traveling through those airports. “Affected airports will have to review how they process and move passengers through the terminals as efficiently as possible while maintaining an adherence to the scheme,” according to ISOS and Control Risks travel security expert James Wood. “Disruption while the restriction beds in should be expected, particularly while the airports refine and review their security procedures.”
In the meantime, several carriers are offering services to comply with the bans. Some are allowing passengers to gate-check banned items so passengers connecting through affected airport can keep their devices on the first legs of their trips. Policies as of Monday include:
British Airways (affected by the U.K. ban): The carrier is allowing passengers who are partway through a trip that includes travel home from an affected country and those about to start such a trip to rebook for a later date should they not be able to comply immediately with the checked electronics requirements.
Emirates (affected by the U.S. ban): At no charge, passengers may hand over devices at the gate to be packed in a box that will have priority unloading upon arrival.
Etihad (affected by the U.S. ban): Etihad’s home airport of Abu Dhabi hosts the only U.S. Customs Preclearance facility in the Middle East. Passengers must place their devices in checked baggage before going through Preclearance. Etihad plans to add staff to the Preclearance facility while the ban is in effect.
Kuwait Airlines (affected by both bans): The carrier warns of “significant delays and/or the possible confiscation of restricted items by security personnel” should passengers traveling from or through Kuwait to the U.S. not put prohibited items in checked luggage at their first point of departure.
Qatar Airways (affected by the U.S. ban): The carrier reports making arrangements to help passengers secure prohibited devices in the baggage hold and reportedly is gate-checking banned items, though it has made no official announcement that it is doing so.
Turkish Airlines (affected by both bans): The carrier is allowing passengers in Istanbul to keep their devices at their gates until they are ready to board. At that point, they will hand over the devices and collect them at a designated place in the baggage claim area.
The U.S. ban prohibits electronic devices “larger than a cell phone/smart phone. They will not be allowed to be carried onboard the aircraft in carry-on luggage. Note that cell phones and medical devices are not banned at this time. Specific items that are banned include:
- Portable DVD players
- Electronic game units larger than a smartphone
- Travel printers/scanners
The Department of Homeland Security insists that this electronics ban is “not airline- or country-specific, but airport-specific.” The ban covers direct flights to the United States from 10 airports across 8 countries:
- Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
- Cairo International Airport (CAI)
- Ataturk International Airport (IST)
- King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
- King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
- Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
- Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
- Hamad International Airport (DOH)
- Dubai International Airport (DXB)
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
These enhanced security measures will only affect flights from 10 of the more than 250 airports that serve as last points of departure to the United States. A small percentage of flights to the United States will be affected, and the exact number of flights will vary on a day-to-day basis. There is no impact on domestic flights in the United States or flights departing the United States. Electronic devices will continue to be allowed on all flights originating in the United States.
TSA recommends passengers transferring at one of the 10 affected airports place any large personal electronic devices in their checked bags upon check-in at their originating airport. Airlines may not give you an opportunity to check items during your layover, so you’d need to check your electronics in your luggage from your origin.
The U.K. Ban
The UK government has announced a cabin baggage ban on laptops and tablets on direct flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The ban applies to any device larger than 16cm long, 9.3cm wide or 1.5cm deep. It includes smart phones, but most fall inside these limits.Any affected device, including e-readers, will need to be placed into hold luggage. Passengers can still take most smartphones, games consoles and DVD players onto the plane, a government spokeswoman said. Number 10 said it was up to individual airlines to decide when to begin enforcing the ban and passengers should contact their airline for more information.