Although President Trump’s revamped travel ban on travelers from select Muslim-majority nations has been blocked by Federal courts, the US and UK have both announced a new travel ban… on electronics! You might not be able to bring your laptop or tablet on board with you the next time you fly back home to the United States.
Starting on Tuesday, March 21, if you are flying directly to the US from one of ten designated airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the UAE, you will not be able to board the plane carrying any electronic device larger than a smartphone. That means no typing up your sales report on your laptop. No reading on your Kindle. No games on your iPad. No videos for the kids on your portable DVD player.
The Specifics on the Travel Ban on Electronics
The US travel ban on electronics applies only to direct flights to the United States that originate at one of ten airports in Muslim-majority nations:
- Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Amman, Jordan
- Cairo International Airport (CAI) in Cairo, Egypt
- Ataturk International Airport (IST) in Istanbul, Turkey
- King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Kuwait International Airport (KWI) in Kuwait City, Kuwait
- Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) in Casablanca, Morocco
- Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha, Qatar
- Dubai International Airport (DXB) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
If you are flying from one of those airports directly to the US, you cannot bring your laptop, tablet, e-reader, or other electronic device in your carry-on luggage. You are allowed to have these items in your checked baggage. Cellphones (including iPhones and other smartphones) and medical devices are exempted from the ban.
The ban will also apply to you if you transit through one of these airports. If you board your final flight to the US at one of the ten airports, you will have to comply with the new electronics rules.
The British travel ban is quite similar, but it also includes some smartphones in the list of forbidden electronics. It impacts direct flights to Britain from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Like the US ban, travelers will still be able to pack their devices into their checked luggage. The UK travel ban will go into effect on March 25.
What Devices are Allowed? Which are Forbidden?
Under the US electronics travel ban, you can’t bring any electric device larger than a smartphone on board. The forbidden devices include:
- Laptop and notebook computers
- iPads and other tablets
- Kindles and other eReader devices
- Portable DVD players
- Handheld game consoles like Nintendo DS
- Children’s electronic toys like LeapPads or toy computers
- Printers and scanners
- GPS devices
You will be able to bring electronics on board if they are no larger than a smartphone, or if they are required for medical reasons. Allowed items include:
- iPhones and other smartphones and cellphones*
- Digital watches, including Apple Watches
- Wearable fitness trackers like FitBits
- Small MP3 devices like iPods
- CPAP machines
- Insulin pumps
- Glucose meters
*”Phablet” phones with unusually large screens may be considered tablets; be prepared to pack them into your checked luggage.
Why Have Electronics Been Banned?
The official reasoning behind the electronics travel ban is a growing concern that terrorists could hide bombs inside devices like laptops. The batteries and other metal components of laptops, tablets, and other electronics would make a small bomb difficult to detect. Counter-terrorism experts believe that certain terror suspects have grown closer to having the technology to hide explosives in electronics.
Some analysts believe that there is more of a political motivation for the electronics ban. It could even have an economic basis, as no US-based airlines are going to be impacted by the US ban. The foreign airlines that will be affected include Emirates, Ethiad, and Qatar Airways, all of which receive large subsidies from their respective governments. Those subsidies make it more difficult to US airlines to compete with their pricing and services.
It is curious, and no doubt significant, that the ban only applies to flights from Muslim-majority countries, and not to all flights. When someone created a “shoe bomb,” travelers on every flight in the US had to take off their shoes for screening. The restrictions on liquids in your carry-on bag also apply just about everywhere you go. So why are laptops only dangerous in certain airports?
How Long Will the Electronics Travel Ban Last?
The US travel ban on electronics is scheduled to last until at least October 14, 2017. However, the administration has stated that they may extend the ban for at least another year beyond that, based on security assessments.