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Doubts on Trump’s laptop ban but Emirates acts

March 27, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The Trump administration’s ban on laptops and larger electronic devices on flights from certain airports has come under fire as discriminatory and of dubious value – while Emirates has neatly found a way to comply with the restrictions in the least disruptive way it can.

The US ban, which took force on Saturday, 25 March 2017, prohibits passengers flying to the US from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries from carrying iPads, laptops or any communications device bigger than a smartphone in the cabin.

While the Trump administration says it introduced the new rules because of intelligence on terrorist plots, critics point out that no US carriers are affected.

Instead, the bans hit some of the Middle Eastern carriers now embroiled in a war of words with big US airlines over accusations of state subsidies: namely Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. If business and first class passengers – many of them senior business people who use electronics in flight – cannot access their devices, they may switch carriers.

The US ban (later emulated by Britain but in a different form – see UK follows US electronic devices ban, with a twist) affects passengers travelling from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the UAE on Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, or Turkish Airlines.

Banned in flight – the laptop

Under both the US and British bans, laptops and bigger devices must be checked in, not taken into the cabin as carry-on baggage.

Intelligence is said to suggest terrorists are working on a laptop bomb – but that doesn’t explain why authorities consider electronic devices in the cabin to be more dangerous than electronic devices in the baggage hold. Also, critics point out that terrorists could evade the US ban simply by switching flights, such as, say, boarding an Air France flight at Istanbul and connecting in Paris on Delta to New York – thus avoiding all the banned carriers.

MEANWHILE, Emirates has responded in the best way it can, by introducing a new service to let customers use their laptops and tablet devices until just before they board their flights to the US.

Emirates customers travelling to the US via Dubai will be able to use their laptops and tablet devices on the first part of their journeys, and also during transit in Dubai. They must then declare and hand over their laptops, tablets, and other banned electronic devices to security staff at the gate just before boarding their US-bound flight. The devices will be carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination. There will not be any charge for this service.

Passengers on US-bound flights starting their journeys in Dubai are encouraged to pack their electronic devices into their check-in luggage in the first instance, to avoid delays.

Emirates reminds passengers that there will be a detailed search of all hand baggage on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai. They should therefore declare their devices before the search, or ensure their electronic devices are packed into their check-in luggage in the first instance.

The airline’s president, Sir Tim Clark, said: “Our aim is to ensure compliance with the new rules, while minimising disruption to passenger flow and impact on customer experience. Our new complimentary service enables passengers, particularly those flying for business, to have the flexibility to use their devices until the last possible moment.

“Once on board they can still stay connected on their mobile phones. Our historical data shows that on Emirates’ US flights, 90% of passengers using our onboard mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity services do so via their smart phones. Only 6% connect via their laptops, and 4% via their tablets. That is not to say that other passengers are not using their devices offline, but perhaps the silver lining to this is that they can now justifiably give themselves a break from their devices, enjoy our onboard service and catch up on the latest movies, music, and TV box sets that we have on offer.”

Emirates was working at the end of last week to ensure that its operations complied  with the latest restrictions on electronic devices in the cabin when the rules took force last Saturday. Emirates has deployed extra staff at the airport to ease and assist passengers, especially in the first days of the new rules being implemented.

From last Saturday, travellers on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai International airport (DXB) have not been allowed to carry any electronic device larger than a cell phone or smartphone, excluding medical devices, into the aircraft cabin. Travellers must pack these electronic devices in their checked-in baggage.

This new security directive, issued by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), applies to all passengers travelling on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai, including those in transit.  It does not apply to passengers travelling on Emirates’ US-bound flights via Milan and Athens, or Emirates flights to/from any other destination.

Written by Peter Needham

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