Electronics Travel Ban

It’s been a week since Royal Jordanian Airlines let the cat out of the bag: both the US and the UK have officially announced bans on certain types of electronics on flights arriving in the United States.

The US Department of Homeland Security has banned electronics in carry-on luggage that are “larger than a cell phone/smart phone” and gave a list of examples. The UK ban restricts based on size of the device itself, as seen in this screenshot from the BBC’s website:

Devices subject to cabin baggage ban

While I understand the need for security on airplanes, this ban seems a bit odd to me, as it does for a few frequent flier bloggers out there.

  1. Since the US and UK share intelligence information like this, shouldn’t the ban match airport-for-airport or at least country-for-country? Instead, there is a lot of divergence, as you can see in this map below. Map of affected countries
  2. If the threat is so imminent, why were airlines given 96 hours to comply? Shouldn’t the ban go into effect immediately, as a similar ban of carry-on luggage occurred immediately after a terror attack on Christmas 2009 – when I boarded a flight to the US the week after I was not allowed any carry-on luggage at all.
  3. If the Department of Homeland Security was truly serious about this they would ban all flights into the US. It is quite easy for someone to take a one-stop flight from Istanbul and arrive without having these restrictions.

Airlines are dealing with this in interesting ways. Some are offering “gate-checking” of electronics. Others are making funny ad campaigns about what you can do with 12 hours without electronics (which is not even true because many of those have in-flight entertainment).

But, really, the explanation that has been given so far is substandard. This ban seems to be unnecessary and ill-timed. We need more allies out there in the world, not fewer. I hope this ban does not last indefinitely.

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