What You Need To Know About the Laptop Ban [UPDATED]

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Update, May 18, 2017: After a meeting yesterday between US and EU officials, the ban on electronics on flights from Europe to the United States seems to be on hold, at least for the moment. We’ll update this page again when more news is available.

The United States Department of Homeland Security is widely expected to implement a ban on all carry-on laptops, tablets and other electronics on flights to the U.S. from Europe. The ban would look much like the one currently in place on flights of Middle Eastern carriers bound for the U.S. This story, and its implications for travelers, is still developing, but we know a few things already, and will continue to update this page with not only the most recent news on the ban, but also information on how the ban will affect your travels, and what you can do about it.




 

Types of Electronics Banned

Laptops, iPads and other tablets, and all other electronics larger than a smartphone. This includes many cameras. All electronics will still be permitted in checked luggage.

 

Which Flights Will Be Affected

When news first broke, the ban was said to apply to all flights coming to the U.S. from airports in Europe, in addition to the airports in the Middle East already subject to the ban of electronics in plane cabins. But today, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security implied that the countries to be included have yet to be finalized.

The original ban applied only to nine airlines based in the Middle East. The assumption for the expanded ban is that it will apply to flights on all airlines, but again, we’ll have to see.

 

How the Ban Is Playing Out

-Airport security regarding laptops has already tightened in the UK and some European countries in an effort to mitigate the need for a total in-cabin ban.

–Airlines in the Middle East have been dealing with an electronics ban for a month and a half already, so those airlines are a good place to look for indications of how other airlines might handle the situation. Emirates is now providing complimentary Surface tablets to business- and first-class passengers on U.S.-bound flights. The airline is also allowing passengers to hold onto their electronics until just before boarding, minimizing the amount of time without them and helping to reassure passengers that their pricey gadgets are being well cared for. Qatar Airways is providing free laptop loaners to business- and first class passengers, and Etihad Airways is offering iPads. Expect other airlines to implement similar workarounds. But as usual, if you’re in economy, you’re screwed.

-Some are predicting that the electronics ban will result in a further bifurcating of classes on flights, with preferred and frequent customers getting clearance to bring their laptops on board with them, while all other passengers must adhere to the ban. For now, this is speculation.

 

What You Can Do To Make Your Travels Suck Less

-For now, if you have a trip planned to the Middle East or Europe, assume it’s possible the ban will take effect before you return to the U.S.

-If you travel a lot for work, consider buying a cheap “travel laptop,” then store necessary files for the trip on a cloud service (This Acer Chromebook 14 comes highly recommended, for just $274.99). This is a good idea not only in dealing with the current and imminent ban, but also for customs agents at U.S. airports who have recently become far more invasive, even toward American citizens.

Feature image credit Matt Haughey via Flickr Commons.




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