Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Brave New World: Decyphering the International Airline Electronics Ban

In the last 48 hours or so, I have been bombarded (excuse the pun) with emails, Instant Messages, and Texts asking about this new International Airline Electronics Ban.  I have to admit, when the first messages came in, I had no idea what had been handed down, as this was around 4:30 in the morning when my phone started dinging.

Here's what I know so far and what I understand about it (thanks to several cohorts of mine as well):

On March 21, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a ban on all electronic devices (aside from medical devices and cell phones) on flights originating in the Middle East and terminating in the United States.  Now, I know a lot of my acquaintances are crying foul and think this is the current administration's way of banning all Muslims.  I'm here to tell you it is not, this affects all flights originating or terminating at Middle East points with direct non-stop service to the United States and the UK.  In fact, in hindsight, we should've had these restrictions in place for the last decade and a half.

So, the types of electronics that are no longer allowed on board are (but not limited to):

Laptops, tablets, E-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, any electronic game bigger than a smartphone, travel printers/scanners (who travels with these anyways?) and anything else electronic that is larger than a common smartphone.  This ban does not include any necessary medical devices, those are allowed to remain in the passenger's possession after security screening and boarding.

From the United States, the airports that are under the ban include:

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (with nonstop flights to Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, New York/JFK, San Francisco, and Washington/Dulles on Etihad Airways.  No US Carrier has served Abu Dhabi since the 1970's)

Amman, Jordan (with nonstop flights to Chicago/O'Hare, Detroit, and New York/JFK on Royal Jordanian, no US Carrier has served since 1994)

Cairo, Egypt (with nonstop flights to New York/JFK on EgyptAir, every now and then Delta or United Airlines will do summer seasonal service, but have not resumed this since the Arab Spring uprising)

Casablanca, Morocco (with nonstop flights to New York/JFK and Washington/Dulles on Royal Air Maroc, no US Carrier has served Casablanca since the 1970's)

Doha, Qatar (with nonstop flights to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston/Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/JFK, Philadelphia, Washington/Dulles, and beginning in January 2017, Las Vegas)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (with nonstop flights to Boston, Chicago/O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston/Intercontinental, Los Angeles, New York/JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington/Dulles by Emirates.  Newark, New Jersey is also served by Emirates, but it is a direct service through Athens, Greece.  No US Carrier has served Dubai since Delta discontinued its Atlanta service in February 2016)

Istanbul/Ataturk International Airport, Turkey (with nonstop flights to Atlanta, Chicago/O'Hare, Houston/Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/JFK, San Francisco, and Washington/Dulles on Turkish Airlines, Delta discontinued it's JFK and Atlanta flights back in May 2016)

Jeddah/King Abdul-Aziz Airport, Saudi Arabia  (with nonstop flights to Los Angeles, New York/JFK, and Washington/Dulles on Saudi Arabian Airlines, no US Carrier has served Jeddah since 1989)

Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait (with nonstop flights to New York/JFK on Kuwait Airways, United Airlines discontinued service from Washington/Dulles in January 2016)

Riyadh/King Khalid International Airport, Saudi Arabia (with nonstop flights to Los Angeles, New York/JFK, and Washington/Dulles on Saudi Arabian Airlines, no US Carrier has served Riyadh since 2001)

The United Kingdom has also announced the same ban of flights to and from the UK, but the list includes airports in Lebanon and Tunisia, as well.  These are not on the list of airports in the US due to the fact there are no direct flights between them (much to my chagrin).

The Department of Homeland Security has stated the current directive runs until October 14, 2017, and might be extended another year.  Currently, there is no impact on domestic flights within the United States, or with flights departing from the United States to the above listed destinations.  Electronic devices will continue to be allowed on all flights originating within the United States.

May I take the time to suggest travelers to visit the Dept. of Homeland Security website for more information on this.  Also, and probably most importantly, government officials are NOT advising US or British Nationals to avoid travel to these countries or these airports (Dubai, Istanbul, and Doha are the three biggest connection points in the Middle East, so it's hard to avoid them anyways).  Also, consider booking with a Travel Agent to secure the best flights that meet your needs to and from these countries (I can definitely find you a way in and out of all of these affected cities).  In my opinion, the decision to travel is a very personal one that must be made by the individual.  Everyone should always stay informed and remain vigilant and alert during their journeys.

If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask me.


  1. Why are those devices safe in the cargo hold or in the cabin on U.S. flagged air carriers? How about this ban has everything to do with U.S. flagged carriers crying foul that the air carriers affected had an unfair competitive advantage due to financing subsidies from their governments? If a person traveling on business CAN use those devices on U.S. flagged aircraft it is reasonable to believe they will abandon the carriers in question and fly with carriers not affected. U.S. carriers sought a meeting with president Trump back on 2/7 to seek financial relief. They have been strangely silent since.

  2. I think the fact that these devices can still be checked as luggage is a big glaring hole in the ban. Whoever wrote this clearly forgot the lessons from Pan AM 103 and UTA 772. That's just my opinion though. Also, let's say Delta still had their Atlanta-Dubai service and United still had Washington/Dulles-Kuwait. Those return flights would still fall under the ban as well. It doesnt matter what flag is on the plane, this has to do with these cities and the nonstops to the US and the UK. As for people abandoning the big ME3 becasue of this? I doubt it will make too much of an impact. Yes, you will see a few handfuls of defections while the ban is in place, but all in all most of these airlines will still be at the top of travelers minds when traveling (heck, I've booked 6 PNR's on Emirates yesterday alone). The only one I really see taking a hit from this is Royal Air Maroc, New York/JFK, Washington/Dulles, and London/Heathrow are their top 3 yield producing routes, and they are on precarious financial ground to begin with anyways. The smaller airlines like Royal Jordanian, Kuwait, and Saudia might see a hit as well, BUT, they are more regional and ethnic in their services, with those long hauls thrown in to serve their various diaspora.