A travel ban on technology you say!! What has technology done to deserve this? Is this another Trump ban on religion (our sacred religion of technology) or is this necessary? As crazy and confusing as it sounds and most definitely is, here’s my attempt to try and make some sense of it all.
What is the Ban?
A ban on carrying electronic devices larger than a smartphone in cabin baggage has been imposed on passengers travelling from certain countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Turkey. Effectively it means that you can forget about settling in to read a book on your Kindle or watching that movie on your iPad.
The ban applies to direct flights to the US from airports in: Cairo, Egypt; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Istanbul, Turkey; Doha, Qatar; Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; and Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The U.K. list covers all inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
The restrictions were first announced by the US Government, followed closely by the UK. The Canadian Prime Minister has also suggested they may follow suit and implement similar restrictions. The US and UK Governments both cite potential terror threats as the reason for instigating these measures, although both have stopped short of announcing any specific threat.
When will it be enforced and who is affected?
In typical Trump fashion the US are wasting no time and notified airlines on Tuesday that they have only 96 hours to fully comply with the new regulations. In the UK they are being more lenient and have indicated that the measures would be introduced soon and would be constantly reviewed.
Some big hitters in the airlines industry are affected by the new regulations and include Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways in the US and British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com & Monarch are some of the airlines affected in the UK. While this is a major inconvenience for the airlines to deal with and implement on such a short time frame, it appears they will not have a choice and security takes precedence over all else.
Questions and Inconsistencies?
Is the ban really necessary? This seems to be irrelevant and what is guaranteed is that there will be a massive learning curve for those involved. While airline security is a serious matter, there is no concrete evidence that there is an imminent threat from the carriage of electronic devices in aircraft cabins.
There are also some inconsistencies and unanswered questions, doesn’t the same security systems screen checked luggage? Isn’t there a potential security risks involved with storing electronic devices, particularly those with lithium batteries, in the hold of an aircraft? Why allow laptops be stored in the hold, couldn’t they be remotely activated by a smartphone from the cabin? Both the US and UK Government have not been forthcoming with answers.
And what about the passengers and their experience. Business passengers and those travelling with children (won’t somebody please think of the children!!!!) stand to be most inconvenienced. Have you ever tried to travel with young children on a long flight without their favourite cartoon ready to occupy them while you relax and enjoy the flight? Safe to say, it’s not something I would like experience.
Business passengers that already have reservations and have booked hand luggage only will need their laptops. They will incur additional costs for adding a bag to their reservation. You also no longer have the comfort of knowing your devices are beside you safe and sound. With airlines there is always the possibility of your luggage going astray, or even worse, your beautiful laptop, iPad or Kindle arriving with a smashed screen. Airlines currently do not accept liability for loss or damage to electronic devices so the risk is all on the passenger.
You might have guessed that the restrictions have not been met with open arms from the parties affected. The Department of Homeland Security and the UK Government will point to the downing of a jet in Somalia last year from a laptop smuggled on-board and also to intelligence that indicates terrorist groups are experimenting with sophisticated explosives that can be brought on planes and avoid X-Ray detection to justify the device ban.
Some security experts have cast doubt on whether the restrictions can be effective. It’s true the airports in the countries affected are lagging behind in infrastructure for state of the art security but, while undoubtedly more difficult, there is a gaping hole where a terrorist could simply fly to the US or the UK through other routes and airports.
Tech experts are also questioning the need for the ban, many indicating that there were no significant breakthroughs in technology in recent years that make this threat any more serious today. There is also nothing to suggest that such a technological threat is limited only the countries affected.
With such a tight deadline for airlines it is clear there will initially be inconvenience and possibly delays to flights as airlines and passengers attempt to come to grips with the technology ban. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions and confusion so we will just have to watch this space to see how this works.
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