Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire URN:30635284 (Press Association via AP Images)
It’s going to be a lot more difficult to travel from certain countries the U.S. and U.K. with common electronics.
Think of all the distractionary devices travelers bring on plans to finish work, watch movies, and listen to music: laptops, tablets, and even oversized “phablet” size cell phones as well as cameras and e-readers like the Kindle.
None of the electronics are allowed on carry-on luggage or in airplane cabins any more in flights from certain airports and on certain airlines. Both the U.S. and U.K. announced that all travelers — regardless of citizenship — who pass through a select group of Middle Eastern airports will have to check all those electronics into their luggage.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday that travelers passing through the 10 airports, which include Cairo, Dubai, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, will now face more strict guidelines due to an “evaluated threat” on airline attacks through personal electronics.
The US was not alone— the UK also announced similar security measures that affected several domestic airlines including regional ones like EasyJet and Thomas Cook.
The sudden, sweeping measure was so alarming to some professionals that the New York Times even came up with a list of ways to keep your personal information safe. It’s advice befitting James Bond: Some of the more elaborate measures including writing down passwords on a piece of paper that you would hand to a friend you will meet over the border.
The rules go into effect this week. So before you leave for any international business trips, make sure you’re clear on where the US and UK ≠and maybe even Canada) now stand on bringing electronic items back.
Why is the laptop ban happening now?
“We note that disseminated propaganda from various terrorist groups is encouraging attacks on aviation,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on its official website.
Such attacks have happened before, including deadly mass killings by terrorists in the major airports of Brussels and Istanbul. The agency also pointed to events including “the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt, the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia,” and further stated that “evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”
Which airports will force you to check your laptops and tablets?
The Department of Homeland Security said that these are the ones impacted: Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan; Cairo International Airport; Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul; Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, Morocco; Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, Dubai International Airport; Abu Dhabi International Airport, King Abdul-Aziz International Airport in Jedda, Saudi Arabia; King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Kuwait International Airport.
One important thing to note: the restrictions apply even if you’re flying through those airports on your way to another destination. So if you’re traveling across the world and your flight has a stopover in Cairo or Istanbul, plan accordingly.
Which airlines will stop you from taking a laptop on board?
The U.S. has imposed the new rules on several Middle Eastern airlines including Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates; Etihad Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, and Saudia.
The U.K. ban will also affect Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian and Saudia and adds Atlas-Global Airways, Pegasus Airways, Tunisair, British Airways, EasyJet, Jet 2, Thomas Cook, Thomson and Monarch airlines.
Be sure to check your airline’s electronic travel restrictions before heading to the US or UK from one of the countries listed.
How are the airlines reacting?
Emirates updated their ad with Jennifer Aniston to talk about the ban, asking “who needs laptops and tablets anyway?”
Royal Jordanian, for another, seems to be exhibiting some humor about it in a series of tweets.
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) March 23, 2017
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) March 23, 2017
What devices are allowed on these international flights now?
The type of device is not as important as its size. The rule is that any electronic devices bigger than 6.3 inches long by 3.6 inches wide have to be checked.
That includes laptops, large cellphones, Kindles and other e-book readers, portable DVD players, video-game consoles and cameras as well as travel printers or scanners.
The DHS will maintain discretion over which devices are allowed, however, meaning the type of device could grow or shrink.
An exception: “approved medical devices may be brought into the cabin after additional screening,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.
How long the ban on laptops in airplane cabins will last
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says the measures will last “indefinitely,” until the terror threat level changes.
In the UK, “we understand the frustration that these measures may cause and we are working with the aviation industry to minimise any impact. Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals. These new measures apply to flights into the UK and we are not currently advising against flying to and from those countries,” a written statement to Parliament said.
Will other countries join the ban?
Canada might. The Globe and Mail reported that Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, is analyzing information given to him by the United States to see if the country should also make people flying from the Middle East to Canada store “all large electronic devices other than mobile cellphones” in their checked luggage.
Reportedly, U.S. Homeland Secretary John Kelly talked to Garneau over the phone yesterday about why the US created its new policy, and Garneau told reporters that “he made us aware of a situation that we are analyzing very carefully. We will have a fulsome discussion within government and look at the information that has been presented to us and then we will make a decision,” and is vowing to have the government “act expeditiously.”
Whether or not Canada joins the US and UK in instating a more restrictive electronics policy when it comes to flights, it is clear that the way we travel for work is rapidly changing.