Middle East travellers scramble to cope after US, UK device bans

Passengers flying directly to Britain from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey will face restrictions; Canada too is reportedly mulling the ban

In a second round of restrictions, the UK announced bans on devices onboard flights from six countries yesterday, leaving the Middle East scrambling to make sense of new rules in the last 48 hours.

Passengers flying directly to Britain from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey will be required to check-in devices and larger phones, according to a statement from a UK government official. The change affects six British airlines, including British Airways and EasyJet, and eight foreign carriers, including Turkish Airlines, but does not include airports in the UAE and Qatar named in the US list announced yesterday.

"The additional security measures may cause some disruption for passengers and flights, and we understand the frustration that will cause, but our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals," he added.

In a statement released to Aviation Business, the US government warned that extremists plan to target passenger jets with bombs hidden in electronic devices, and banned carrying them in cabins on flights from 10 airports in eight countries.

Emirates has been proactive in addressing the situation, announcing changes to flight rules online and through social media. The carrier has even gone as far as to repurpose an October 2016 ad with Jennifer Anniston highlight its inflight entertainment systems in an ad that begins with the line, "Who needs laptops and tablets anyway?"

However, up to two-thirds of airline revenue per commercial flight come from passengers in premium cabins who choose to stay connected on long haul flights. Aviation consultant Robert Mann, in an earlier interview called the rules affecting flights to the US "a potential productivity killer."

"If you were planning to work on the flight, you've just burned 14 hours of your day," he says.

Global Business Travel Association Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick, says the ruling adversely affects business travelers because nearly half (49 percent) prefer to stay connected and get work done while flying. "Not allowing them to bring their devices on the plane cuts productivity, taking away time that they can be getting business done. Many business travelers also prefer to keep their devices close for security purposes because they may contain sensitive company information," he adds.

Some companies also forbid packing laptops and devices in with luggage checked-in for the latter reason, says Henry Harteveldt, president and analyst at Atmosphere Research Group. "Theft is always a risk when putting expensive company property such as laptops in checked bags," he says





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