A few days ago I discussed rumors that the United States was preparing to ban laptops and larger electronics on flights originating in Europe. This would be a massive expansion of the electronics ban to a limited number of countries in the Middle East.
There now appears to be confirmation from European officials that the US will move forward with a much wider ban of large electronics on all flights originating from Europe bound for the US.
It appears this will be announced tomorrow. There’s some ambiguity about what sorts of electronics will be banned. If there is an expansion of the ban to European flights, it seems likely it will include at least laptops. This hurts a whole lot of people:
This is the group that probably gets hurt the most. The shortest of flights from Europe to the US is 6 hours. Some are as long as 10-12 hours. That’s a long time for a business traveler to shut down. A decent number of international flights have Wifi now. Business travelers can make great use of that time. That’s especially true when you consider that flights from Europe to the US are generally during US workday hours.
Asking business travelers to disconnect for the day is a huge inconvenience. That’s the way it used to be. Business travelers aren’t going to like going back to that sort of environment. And, they’re not going to want to work on their smartphone.
Equally troubling is actually putting your laptop in checked baggage. In certain situations, some business travelers would violate existing company security policy doing so. Airlines lose and damage checked bags at a scary enough rate that I’d be nervous checking mine, even though I have no company policy preventing me from doing so. The article quoting European officials also notes the increased risk of fires on planes from lithium-ion batteries.
Bottom line here is not much good news for business travelers.
Parents with young children use tablets as a key tool to keep kids occupied (read, quiet) on long flights. There’s no specific comments about whether tablets/iPads would be part of the ban. But, if they are, many planes don’t have adequate in-flight entertainment for kids.
Business travelers may poo-poo this as a real issue. I’ve had a number of comments here to that effect. If they don’t have kids they might think those of who do are bad parents. The reality is that an iPad is one of the more effective tools to pass the time on a long flight overseas. Happy kids are better for parents and business travelers alike.
The airlines suffer in two key areas. First and foremost, a ban of this type will reduce demand. Maybe not by a lot. There will be trips that get cancelled in favor of a video or phone call. That is a viable solution for some instead of being disconnected for most of a business day.
Secondly, if laptops are banned from cabins, in-flight Wi-Fi usage will go down. That reduces airline profit. More importantly, it’s a huge disincentive for the airlines to invest in better in-flight technology.
The Final Two Pennies
I have no doubt there are real security threats tied to these discussions. I don’t envy the folks that are tasked with keeping us safe in the air. I’d never want to be in charge of filtering through every security threat.
However, this feels like a solution that will have a profound long-term impact on my travel. Remember those temporary restrictions on the amount of liquids you could bring through security? We’re approaching their 20th anniversary. I’ve heard plenty of rumors along the way of scanning technology that would make those restrictions obsolete. And yet, I still carry around a little bag of 3 oz. or smaller liquids.
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