Wednesday, May 17th, 2017
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) along with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have announced a ban on carry-on electronics. This will affect flights top the United States flying in from 10 airports located in eight countries.
As per the DHS, any electronic device bigger than a smartphone or cell phone will not be permitted to be carried with the passenger as carry-on luggage onboard aircraft. Do note that all medical devices and mobiles can be taken as carry-on luggage. The list of banned items include:
<li>Electronic game units bigger than smartphone</li>
<li>Portable DVD players</li>
<li>Scanners or travel printers</li>
According to the DHS, this electronics ban is airport specific, and not country specific or airline specific. His ban includes direct flights to the United States originating from a total of 10 airports spread over a total of eight countries
<li>Cairo International Airport</li>
<li>King Abdul-Aziz International Airport</li>
<li>Kuwait International Airport</li>
<li>Hamad International Airport</li>
<li>Abu Dhabi International Airport</li>
<li>Queen Alia International Airport</li>
<li>Ataturk International Airport</li>
<li>King Khalid International Airport</li>
<li>Mohammed V Airport</li>
<li>Dubai International Airport</li>
A statement issued by the DHS tries to downplay this encompassing ban. The statement says that these measures leading to enhanced security affects only 10 airports out of about 250 airports which server as departure points towards the United States. Only a miniscule percentage of flights towards the US will be affected. The correct number of flights could vary day to day.
When questioned, administration officials occupying senior positions quickly pointed out that no American carriers operate non-stop direct flights to and from affected airports. However, nine foreign airlines do operate non-stop or direct flights from listed airports the United States. They are Emirates, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Saudia, EgyptAir, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Royal Jordanian Airlines.
When asked about the penalty for any non-compliance, the DHS officials responded that it will cooperate with FAA to revoke the certificate of the airline to operate any more flights to the United States.
<strong>Reason for such a ban</strong>
The DHS has issued a statement justifying the ban. The statement says that after proper evaluation, it is found that terrorist groups contuinued to target the commercial aviation sector. They are also aggressively pursuing a number of innovative methods to conduct attacks. This includes the smuggling of explosive devices in a number of consumer items.
The DHS statement says that the new procedures will continue to remain until there will a change of threats. It means that the ban is presently indefinite.
<strong>Effects of ban on passengers who are members of trusted traveler programs</strong>
The official statement of the DHS in such a case is that these measures are applicable to all passengers flying in to the United States from a few locations independent of the trusted traveler status.
<strong>Connecting flights through listed airports</strong>
The official statement issued by the DHS says that it is recommended by the TSA that the passengers being transferred at any one of 10 affected airports could place any big personal electronic devices inside their checked bags. This must be done during check-in at the originating airport.
The final answer depends on the particular policies of the airline. The airlines may not provide any opportunity to check the items during the layover. It follows that you must check the electronics right from the originating airport. This airport may not be on the list. The airlines are given the task of preventing the big electronic devices from entering the aircraft as carry-on luggage. Inspections will thus occur before the passenger completes the boarding process.
<strong>Carrying more than a single piece of luggage</strong>
Although carriers could introduce a few restrictions, the ban imposed by the DHS is applicable only on the electronics size. It does not mention the quanity of electronics. Thus multiple phones can be permitted in the carry-on bags.
<strong>Can more airports be added in future?</strong>
The DHS statement clearly says that with the change of threats, the security needs of the TSA will too. It is to be mentioned that no other country has implemented such a carry-on electronics ban. Sources indicate, however, that the United Kingdom may follow suit.
<strong>Ban and aircraft crew</strong>
As per senior US administration officials, this policy is not applicable to the flight crew. Do note, however, that this factor is not mentioned in any DHS release.
<strong>Protecting electronic device from unauthorized access</strong>
It is an excellent idea to wrap the checked in bag in plastic. This will partly protect the device from any unwanted access or even theft. Since plastic is transparent, it will be possible to see whether the device was subject to unauthorized access. There are multiple reports of data being collected from devices which go past border control and customs. The DHS has flatly denied such data collection reports.
<strong>Carriers and insurance</strong>
A majority of airline companies do not cover any damage costs of the checked electronics. These policies may change in the near future. Aviation experts have warned that baggage thefts can only increase due to the ban. Furthermore, it is much easier to detect battery fires in cabin compared to hold.
Do note that all flights between the United States and the Middle East are not affected. These include flights from Tel Aviv to US airports, and flights from Dakar in Senegal, Accra in Ghana and from Lagos in Nigeria. A number of other routes also remain unaffected.