Today the Department of Homeland Security announced that passengers traveling on nonstop flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa will not be allowed to carry on electronic devices larger than mobile phones. Instead, these larger devices must now be transported as checked luggage.
This morning, the UK imposed a similar ban on nonstop flights from six cities in the Middle East and Africa. The UK ban differs in that it DOES include non Middle East carriers (including British Airways) but it does not affect flights from Dubai, Doha or Abu Dhabi. Canada is also considering a similar ban.
This directive hits business travelers directly in the gut. Why? Because we typically spend most of our time on long flights working on our laptops, or watching movies on our tablets. We don’t check bags. And we don’t trust the airlines to transport our valuable equipment safely and securely in checked luggage (and airlines specifically state that they will not cover electronics in checked baggage).
The good news, if there is any, is that this directive affects a very small number of flights. DHS emphasizes that only 10 airports out of 250 worldwide with nonstop flights to the US are affected.
For example, at San Francisco International, it hits less than three flights per day: a daily nonstop from Dubai on Emirates Airline and the daily nonstop from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. It also affects a twice-per-week nonstop from Abu Dhabi to SFO on Etihad. In Atlanta, it affects two flights: the daily nonstop from Doha on Qatar Airways and another from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.
The affected overseas airports are:
- Amman-Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
- Cairo International Airport (CAI)
- Istanbul- Ataturk International Airport (IST)
- Jeddah- King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
- Riyadh- King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
- Kuwait International Airport (KWI),
- Casablanca- Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
- Doha- Hamad International Airport (DOH)
- Dubai International Airport (DXB)
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
Airlines affected by the ban:
- Egypt Air
- Etihad Airways
- Kuwait Airways
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
Why is this happening…and why now? Well, the DHS says that it made the move to improve security based on intelligence that terrorists were focused on commercial aviation targets. But we’ve known about this threat since the 1990s. An interesting story in the Washington Post posits that the move is not about security at all– it’s about retaliation against the big three Middle East Carriers (known as 3ME).
What’s most poignant here is how the ban will affect the 3ME, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. These are the only carriers offering nonstop flights to the U.S. from Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While these airlines wow us with stellar onboard service on new aircraft, business travelers are going to book away from them when faced with this ban. Instead, they’ll book one-stop flights on European carriers for the flight back to the U.S. (At least that’s what I would do…what about you? Comments below, please!)
Helpful: Q&A with DHS about the ban
How long will this last? DHS says that the ban is in place indefinitely, although Emirates said it could last until October. The ban impacts all travelers on all affected flights regardless of citizenship or trusted traveler status. It even affects flights from Abu Dhabi, where passengers pass through customs at the airport in a DHS-run pre-clearance facility. The ban was announced on Tuesday, March 21, and airlines have until Friday to comply.
TIP: BACK UP YOUR LAPTOP NOW! Especially if overseas travel is in your future. You never know when or if this ban could spread and you could be separated from your device. Also, with a new focus on laptops, it would be smart to be sure it’s always charged in case you are asked to turn it on by security staff.
How do you feel about this? Does it affect you at all? Would you be more likely to book away from one of the affected carriers? Please leave your comments below!