How airlines are softening the impact of the device ban

Plane sunset
Travel News 30 Mar 2017

In the aftermath of the UK and US Ban on large electonics in carry-on, airlines are doing their best to minimise the impact on passengers - most notably heavy-weights Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad.

Emirates aims to let passengers take their laptops past security gates at Dubai International Airport and collect the devices only before boarding as the world’s largest international carrier seeks to minimize the impact of an electronics ban on routes to the U.S. 

The state-owned carrier is planning to permit devices affected by the ban within the security perimeter to allow passengers, particularly those flying in premium seats, to use laptops and tablets until the last possible moment, it said in an email. The airline will then take the items for storage in the cargo hold until arrival. 

Additional staff will be deployed to avoid disruptions to the flow of passengers, especially in the first few days of implementing the new rules, which come into effect on March 25. The U.S. ban, announced Tuesday, prevents passengers on non-stop flights from 10 Middle Eastern airports from bringing large electronics into the aircraft cabin.

“This new security measure is disruptive and operationally challenging in several regards,” Emirates President Tim Clark said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the business impact of this new security measure, and we will decide on our strategies and interventions accordingly.”

Emirates stands to be one of the hardest hit from the new security rules, as well-paying business customers seek alternatives to avoid costly downtime during flights. Airlines operating out of European hubs could gain with the promise of “making better use of business travelers’ time,” Jamie Baker, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a note, adding that the electronics ban has “the potential to alter global traffic flows.”

“I am optimistic we will get through this,” said Emirates’ Clark, declining to comment on the motivations behind the ban. “Our job is to comply, and manage the commercial and operational challenge.”

Qatar Airways is also taking on the US government’s ban on large electronics with a rather ingenious solution — announcing that Business class passengers on board its flights to the US will be given access to loaner laptops.

“By providing this laptop loan service we can ensure that our passengers on flights to the US can continue to work whilst on-board,”Qatar Airways Group CEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker said in a statement.

“This unique ability to offer ‘business as usual’, above and beyond the competition, is yet another example of Qatar Airways justification for being the ‘World’s Best Business Class’.”

Business class passengers will also have access to complimentary WiFi.

Similarly, Etihad is lending tablets and offering unlimited wifi to business and first-class passengers travelling on U.S.-bound flights.