Dealing With the No Device Ban On U.S.-Bound Airlines

A new ban catches New Yorker travelers unaware, and they are not happy

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Right on the heels of the recent U.S. ban on devices on U.S.-bound flights from Middle Eastern and African countries, Emirates Airlines released an 18-second promotion, showing Jennifer Aniston seated between two children, raving about the on-board entertainment services at Emirates. “This thing has so many games and so many movies,” Aniston says. “It’s crazy.”

A carry-on electronics ban on flights to the U.S.—from eight countries and ten airports—will come into effect this Saturday, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. The ban will apply to laptops, DVD players, e-readers, iPads, and cameras. The U.S. government’s concern about terrorists’ interest in commercial aviation will affect ten airports in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait, Egypt, and Turkey. None of the American airlines are affected because they do not fly direct to these destinations.  

“Let us entertain you,” says the Emirates video with Jennifer Aniston, which was edited from a longer 2016 commercial.

But not many travelers are amused with the ban. It impacts students, business travelers, and people traveling with small children, all of them flying for long hours. Many of them use the time to work.The ban also raises issues of potential damage to expensive devices being checked into baggage, and the possible loss of confidential data that business travelers carry with them for their meetings abroad with governments and corporations.  

Imran Ahmad Khan, a student in NYC, is one such traveler. He is traveling home next month to Lahore, Pakistan for a family occasion. He had planned on using the  thirteen-hour Emirates flight to complete his schoolwork and meet his deadlines, but  he won’t be able to take his laptop in the cabin, when coming back to the U.S. Friends have advised him to travel without his laptop and upload all data on to his Google drive, or to cover his check-in bag in the plastic wrap that is available at most international airports for a price, or bubble-wrap the laptop  for protection.  

“I don’t know the reason for this ban,” said Khan. “This is just such an inconvenience.”  

For business managers who travel through any of the affected airport hubs in their international travel, the ban poses a serious headache. Sachin Rudra, chief investment officer at the development fund Acumen travels frequently to Africa and India for work. He usually travels by Emirates because of its route connectivity and better service.The ban is a problem, he said.  “At one level it can be hugely relaxing,” he said. “But, seriously, productivity will be impacted.”  

Mike Bennett used to travel regularly to the UAE and Saudi Arabia on business, and the new ban makes little sense to him. “The business travelers will love the twelve hour flight with no laptop,” said Bennett, sarcastically. “And of course no nefarious computer-savvy terrorist could possibly either program a checked laptop to do its dirty work at a specific time or do something wicked with a smartphone. Only people who read thriller fiction would think of either of those.”  

The ban affects Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, Royal Jordanian, South African Airlines, and other airlines. Many of these are popular with parents traveling with young children, according to Sheetal Trivedi of Trip Explorer. They like the new airplanes of the Gulf airlines, which she said have lower costs and better service. Cristy Kaur agrees. She is a mother of two boys, 9 and 6. She flies non-American airlines when she travels abroad. “The service of Emirates and Etihad is so much better than the American ones,” said Kaur. “It is a nightmare to travel long distance with kids.”  

While her customers are griping about the new rules, Trivedi says she has not seen any cancellations yet. “Future bookings might be impacted,” said Trivedi. “People may book on American and European airlines that are not bound by these rules.”

Whether this move will result in passengers shifting to American or European airlines, or increase confusion among travelers remains to be seen. Till then, Svati Shashank, a frequent international traveler has some advice for inconvenienced travelers: “Take a slim book, watch the movies onboard. Relax.”

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