The biggest news this week is the Electronics Ban that requires passengers flying from 8 countries to stow any electronics larger than a smartphone in their checked bags. It has the potential to dramatically change air travel to the US from those 8 countries, two of which have the 3 largest Middle Eastern carriers. Hours later, the United Kingdom came out with a similar yet more specific ban.
Details about the US Electronics Ban
The electronics ban states that electronic devices larger than a cellphone or smartphone will not be carry-ons for flights departing from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.
The ban affects 10 airports:
- Amman, Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
- Cairo, Egypt’s Cairo International Airport (CAI)
- Istanbul, Turkey’s Ataturk International Airport (IST)
- Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
- Kuwait’s International Airport (KWI)
- Casablanca, Morocco’s Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
- Doha, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (DOH)
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates’ Dubai International Airport (DXB)
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
So, what specifically can’t you bring? Any electronic that isn’t a smartphone, cellphone, or medical device. For example:
Details about the UK Electronics Ban
The UK Electronics Ban is more specific in that it bans electronic devices bigger than: 16cm x 9.3cm by 1.5cm in the cabin or carry-on bags from the following countries:
- Saudi Arabia
This is a much more specified restriction as compared to the US one.
Impact of the Electronics Ban
Obviously the near-term impact is a lot of confusion and frustration. But there are wider concerns here. For instance, we know that lithium-ion batteries are generally not safe to have in the baggage hold. The FAA even has a directive stating as much. This is a huge concern, as we’ve seen in numerous cases what can happen.
My Initial Thoughts
I think its interesting that one of these airports has a US Customs Pre-Clearance Facility (AUH), which of course already has enhanced security compared to most of the other airports. I wonder if that is a sign that the Pre-Clearance Facility may not stick around.
I also don’t like the idea that I could now be flying on a plane with enough lithium-ion devices to cause a diversion or worse, sitting unmonitored in the baggage hold. I think this is a very real concern, and I sincerely hope that someone will be monitoring and reporting on how many aircraft have incidents related to this electronics ban, should it stand.
That all said, the fact that the United Kingdom jumped on the ban wagon so quickly, and so much more specifically gives me pause. I still think that forcing large lithium batteries to be stowed in checked bags presents a danger, but, I’d imagine that the intelligence is indicating that there is some greater danger.
Finally, my thoughts this morning on the topic are tempered this evening as I finish writing this post. They are tempered because the United Kingdom’s electronics ban lends legitimacy. Could that just be a strategy? Yes, but, what if its not? and why is the United Kingdom’s so much more narrow–and essentially, impacting fewer major hubs–is it better intelligence? A tempered hand? who knows.
What do you think of the Electronics ban?