Are you horrified at the prospect of being trapped on a flight without your laptop or tablet?
You are not alone. Business travelers are scrambling to understand the laptop ban and figure out how to stay productive on long international flights.
Here are the details on who is impacted by the ban, how to protect your expensive gear, and how to get work done on the flight.
Why Are These Devices Banned?
Image via Flickr by sigmama
Security officials have learned that terrorists have been weaponizing batteries that fit in large electronic devices. They want to protect passengers from explosions and hijacking. Although the new rule is being referred to as a “laptop ban,” it affects most devices larger than a smartphone, including laptops, tablets, many cameras, and portable printers. The U.K. version of the ban even includes some phones.
Which Flights Are Affected
Only about 50 flights per day from ten cities are currently impacted, although that’s about to change as the U.S. prepares to expand the ban to inbound European flights. Right now, outbound flights from the U.S. or U.K. are not affected at all, so you can board with your device and use it as usual.
If you are flying into the U.S. from any of these ten airports, you will not be allowed to board the plane with your tablet or laptop:
- Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
- Cairo International Airport (CAI)
- Ataturk International Airport (IST)
- King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
- King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
- Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
- Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
- Hamad International Airport (DOH)
- Dubai International Airport (DXB)
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
The eight countries affected by the U.S. ban include
- Saudi Arabia
The U.K. ban mirrors the U.S. one, with a few differences. Laptops and tablets are allowed on flights into the U.K. from Morocco, UAE, and Kuwait, but not on flights from Tunisia.
What To Do With Your Device
Your options vary by airline and the process is constantly evolving, so it’s best to check your airline’s website a few days before your flight. Turkish Airlines, for instance, is allowing passengers who don’t want to check their gear to use their laptops or tablets at the boarding gate and gate-check them for the flight. You may want to buy a unique protective case for your device so it will be easy to identify and keep safe in storage. Make sure you turn your device off completely to preserve the battery during the flight.
How to Work On Your Flight
There are some tactics and gadgets that will help you get work done using just your smartphone. If you need to be connected, T-Mobile’s GoGo In-Flight deal will give you an hour of free Wi-Fi plus unlimited in-flight texting and access to visual voicemail. If you want to use this time to get some writing done, bring along a full-size keyboard that will connect to your phone via Bluetooth. If you normally use flight time to catch up on work-related reading or review materials, shop for a screen magnifier to tuck in your bag. If you choose an HD magnifier with a stand, you’ll also be able to enjoy movies on your phone. Be sure to pack a power bank.
What’s on the horizon
At the time of this writing, the U.S. is preparing to expand the ban to a number of European cities, which could impact more than 400 flights per day. Australia is considering a similar ban and other countries may follow suit as well. Eventually, the ban could expand to include inbound flights from more countries, since the current ban won’t stop a terrorist who connects flights. It’s uncertain whether the ban will be temporary or if it will become as much a part of air travel as removing shoes in the security line.
The ban is still evolving, so be sure to check your airline’s website for the latest information before you fly. This latest security measure may be the biggest travel inconvenience to date, but at the moment it seems necessary to ensure our safety in the air.