How is the US electronics ban working in practice?

Photo of a plane flying over the city
By Andrea Murad, CA Today

18 May 2017

The USA electronics ban is in force but what does this mean for international business travellers?

The current electronics ban affects inbound or returning flights from Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, and passengers on those flights will have to find new ways to conduct mid-air business or stave off boredom during their travels.

Any electronic device larger than a cell phone won’t be allowed in carryon luggage and must be checked, including laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, electronic game devices, travel printers and scanners.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) does not believe that the electronics ban is a sufficient long-term solution, however, due to inconsistencies: there are continuing safety concerns regarding high concentrations of lithium batteries in aircrafts, as passengers may not always power down electronic devices prior to storing them in checked baggage.

The Federal Aviation Administration have repeatedly voiced concerns about lithium batteries in aircraft holds, and tests revealed that lithium-ion batteries can self-ignite to 600C - once a fire starts in a cabin hold, the craft relies on fire-suppression systems to extinguish it and lithium-ion batteries have been shown to knock out suppression systems with fumes.

For example, vaporizer batteries for electronic cigarettes are already banned from the hold due to the high risk of fire.

Is it changing behaviour?

The imposition of the ban on large electronics in the cabin on certain routes to the US and UK has not yet impacted traffic figures, however.

“Strong traffic demand continued throughout the first quarter, supported by a combination of lower fares and a broad-based upturn in global economic conditions,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

UK air passengers have proven themselves to be adaptable and have become accustomed to hand luggage restrictions.

“The price of air travel has fallen by around 10% in real terms over the past year and that has contributed to record load factors. We will have to wait another month to see the impact of the laptop ban on demand.”

Are we adaptable?

While the restrictions may seem stringent, most passengers tend to adapt quickly to additional security precautions.

“Since the introduction of the liquids ban over 10 years ago, UK air passengers have proven themselves to be adaptable and have become accustomed to hand luggage restrictions,” said John Watson CA, Edinburgh Airport’s Chief Commercial Officer, where the UK electronics ban is in full effect.

“Many of the passengers on affected incoming services to Edinburgh Airport are regular flyers, and this along, with the general understanding that safety comes first, means we haven’t experienced any adverse issues since the introduction of these latest changes.”

To re-route or not?

While flying direct is often the most convenient option, having a connection would be one easy way to avoid the additional security checks, as the ban affects flights from the last rather than original destination.

“Travelers are re-routing their flights to avoid flying to the US from affected airports,” said Chris Lopinto, president and co-founder of ExpertFlyer.com, “and the decrease in the number of direct flights by some airlines is forcing travelers to adjust their itinerary.”

Read about how to keep your data safe on trips to the US with our guide on what to expect at the border.

Topics

  • Technology
  • CA life
  • Business
  • Europe
  • North America

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