Candice May and Kim Emmanuel
Emirates is the only airline to have come up with a workable solution after the US and UK issued a ban on certain electronic devices, including cameras, on flights from certain hubs in the Middle East.
The ban prohibits most electronic devices, including laptops, cameras, gaming devices and tablets, from being allowed in the cabin of the flight. From March 25, Emirates will enable passengers to utilise their electronic devices until the last possible moment – after which they hand their laptops or tablets into the care of Emirates staff just before boarding the US-bound flight. The devices will be carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination. There will not be any charge for this service.
Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, said the aim was to ensure compliance with the new rules while minimising disruption to passenger flow and impact on customer experience. “Once on board they can still stay connected on their mobile phones. Our historical data shows that on Emirates’ US flights, 90% of passengers using our on-board mobile and WiFi connectivity services do so via their smart phones. Only 6% connect via their laptops, and 4% via their tablets,” said Clark.
However, the remaining airlines that are affected by the ban and provide indirect services from SA to the US have not implemented any additional measures to accommodate affected passengers.
Etihad said in a statement that items should be checked in “at the start of any US-bound journey, which may not necessarily be at Abu Dhabi Airport”. The airline added: “Whilst Abu Dhabi International Airport is not listed within the more recent ban related to direct flights operating to the United Kingdom, enhanced security screening is likely for guests travelling to London, Manchester and Edinburgh”. Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and EgyptAir have said that they have not yet come up with a solution on how to handle the ban on electronic devices. Saudia has not responded to request for comment.
The nine airlines that operate direct flights to the US from affected airports are EgyptAir, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines. The UK restrictions apply to 14 airlines – British Airways, easyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, EgyptAir, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Saudia.