Middle East Electronics Ban – not thought through?

Monday, 27 March 2017

The ban on tablets, laptops and digital cameras introduced on 21 March from an assortment of Middle East airports covers anything bigger than 9.3cm (3.6 inches) by 16cm (6.3 inches) by 1.5 cm (0.6 inches). That lets in most big smart phones, but cuts out Kindles and IPad Minis. The ban had all the hallmarks of a Trump-era ruling, rushed into action with minimal thought about how it was going to work.

Like a lot of people I treat long flights as an opportunity to catch up on reading and work, rather than watch movies. So not being able to take my iPad and finish reading Our Man in Havana and this week’s edition of The Economist would be a nuisance. Ditto for working on my Surface laptop, when I arrive at my destination (or an intermediate stop), I usually hit ‘send’ and all the emails I’ve written swoosh off. I’d still need my ‘devices’ at my destination, but if you’re travelling with just a carry on who wants to bring a suitcase purely to transport a 150gm Kindle? Quite apart from getting hit with baggage charges on some airlines, hanging around for the bags to come off anywhere and risking theft if you’re flying to a less-than-honest destination?

Naturally Emirates, the airline that seems to always think fastest, quickly came up with at least a partial solution. Customers connecting through Dubai to the USA can use their devices as far as Dubai. They don’t have to pack them into checked bags at the beginning of their trip. Then the banned electronic devices are collected just before departure from Dubai, ‘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.’

2001 - Annapurna Trek - RIA.29 - 270◄ Back in 2001, so 16 years ago and six years before Apple delivered their first iPhone, I trekked around Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit with a Palm Pilot (remember that pre-smartphone device?) and a tiny fold-up keyboard. I could connect the Palm Pilot to the keyboard and type up my trekking notes just like on a laptop. At the end of the trip I downloaded the data on to my laptop.

If you need to produce something longer than a badly spelt, unedited, 3 am, fake news tweet – ie you’re not the current US president – you can get a fold-up keyboard for your smartphone for less than US$50. Now there’s a neat solution

Final thought: it’s been suggested that this ban is a Trump plot to screw around the Gulf airlines (Emirates, Qatar, Etihad) because US airlines have been complaining about them. That seems unlikely because none of the US carriers are flying to the destinations in question, if flyers decide to reroute the business is likely to go to Asian or European competitors.