Do new electronics restrictions make sense?

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First – in case you missed it – the U.S. government has banned large electronics (anything larger than a phone, including tablets and laptops) from being carried in-cabin on certain flights from Africa and the Middle East. But only if you’re flying on a foreign airline. Here are the details:

Airlines Affected

  • EgyptAir
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Saudi Arabia Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines

Airports Affected

  • Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates
  • Ataturk International, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Cairo International, Egypt
  • Doha International, Qatar
  • Dubai International, United Arab Emirates
  • King Abdulaziz, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait International, Farwaniya, Kuwait
  • Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco
  • Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan

You read that right. If you’re flying from Dubai to New York on Emirates, you can’t take your laptop on board with you. You’ll have to place it in your checked luggage.

While many questions remain unanswered, two come to the top of my mind:

  1. Who will accept liability for damaged electronics?
  2. Why are U.S.-based airlines exempt when security standards are (usually) uniform across an airport?

To the first point, you can count on airlines to disclaim any liability for damaged electronics, claiming that their hands are tied by government-imposed regulations. As for the U.S. government reimbursing you for damaged property… good luck with that.

To the second, I can’t think of any reason why U.S.-based airlines would be exempt from this other than economic warfare. The big U.S. airlines (American, Delta and United) have long complained about supposedly unfair competition from innovative Middle Eastern carriers, in particular Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Why is a laptop in the cabin potentially dangerous on Emirates but not on Delta? What better way to encourage travelers to choose U.S.-based airlines than to make the idea of flying a foreign carrier totally intolerable? No business traveler I know would check their laptop, and rightly so.

To make matters worse, the U.K. has gotten in on the fun. Naturally their ban is not totally consistent with the American policy. If that isn’t a recipe for chaos I don’t know what is.

Would you check your laptop? Or will you be avoiding the affected airlines?

About the Author

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Ryan has been a travel expert for more than ten years. His journeys have taken him to all six inhabited continents, including living in the Middle East and backpacking across Australia, Asia and Europe.

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