How Australian travellers are affected by the USA, UK laptop bans

By Chris Chamberlin, March 23 2017

With the United States and the United Kingdom now banning laptops and tablets aboard flights from a host of countries and airports, some travellers will be forced to transport these – and other large electronic devices – inside their checked luggage, rather than in a carry-on bag.

But will Australian passengers be caught up in the ban? We've broken down what the new rules mean and how they'll affect you.

The executive summary: there's no impact on Australians flying directly to the USA, although Perth travellers who fly to the US via the Gulf airports of Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways will be caught up.

Passengers on Qantas flights on the Australia-Dubai-London route (QF1/2 and QF9/10) won't be directly impacted – they can still bring their laptops, iPads and Kindles on board – but they should be prepared for longer queues at Dubai Airport's transit area if other US-bound passengers are carrying tech which needs to be removed from their carry-on bag.

What’s covered by the USA’s ban on inflight gadgets?

All electronic devices larger than a smartphone – including tablets, laptops, ebook readers, DVD players and more – cannot be brought into the aircraft passenger cabin on flights bound for the US when departing from 10 specific airports across the Middle East and Africa.

These gadgets can only be transported in checked baggage, not in cabin baggage.

Airports affected include those in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – the hubs of Emirates and Etihad Airways in the United Arab Emirates – along with Hamad International Airport in Doha, home to Qatar Airways.

Joining those is Ataturk Airport in Istanbul (Turkey), Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (Jordan), Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport (Morocco), Cairo International Airport (Egypt), Kuwait International Airport (Kuwait City, Kuwait), and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul-Aziz and King Khalid International Airports in Jeddah and Riyadh.

Read more: USA bans laptops, tablets, Kindles on selected US-bound flights

What does the UK’s similar inflight electronics ban cover?

The United Kingdom is imposing similar bans to the USA, but only on flights departing from six countries – being Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey – rather than 10 specific airports as with the US.

On flights from these countries, electronic devices larger than 16cm in length, 9.3cm in width and 1.5cm in depth can again only be transported in checked baggage and cannot be brought into the aircraft cabin, covering most laptops, tablets and the like.

But importantly, the UK is not imposing this restriction on flights from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (nor from Kuwait or Morocco), which means passengers flying with Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – plus Qantas, British Airways and more – are not affected.

Read: UK joins US with flight ban on electronic devices

Are non-stop flights from Australia to the USA affected?

No. Non-stop flights from Australia to the United States are not covered by these bans, so travellers can continue jetting from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco or Dallas/Fort Worth with their laptops and tablets in carry-on baggage.

The ban also does not apply to any flights departing the United States to any destination, including all domestic and international flights – so if you’re flying with Qantas from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles, or from New York to Sydney via Dallas, you’re all clear to bring your laptop into the cabin.

Are Qantas flights from Australia to London via Dubai affected?

No. Unlike the US, the UK’s ban does not apply to passengers flying from or via Dubai, so passengers aboard Qantas flights QF1 and QF9 are also free to bring large electronic devices with them during all stages of the journey.

How about flights from Australia to the UK with Emirates, Etihad Airways or Qatar Airways?

Because the UK’s ban does not apply to passengers transiting through or beginning their journey in the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) or Qatar (Doha), these flights are too unaffected.

That means you’re free to fly Australia-Abu Dhabi-London with Etihad Airways, Australia-Dubai-London with Emirates or Australia-Doha-London with Qatar Airways with all of your gadgets by your side.

Are flights from Australia to the US via Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai affected?

Unfortunately, yes – passengers travelling from Australia to the United States via Abu Dhabi International Airport, Doha’s Hamad International Airport or Dubai International Airport will be impacted as the journey includes a US-bound flight from an affected airport.

That’s a particular annoyance for Perth-based jetsetters who fly to the USA with Emirates, Etihad Airways or Qatar Airways via the Middle East, avoiding a detour via Australia’s east coast and often a second connection to reach their final destination.

What’s more, passengers making a swift transit in between flights from Australia to the USA in Doha, Dubai or Abu Dhabi must place all of their large electronic devices into their checked bag in Australia.

This is because any checked baggage would be tagged from that passenger’s point of departure in Australia straight through to their destination in the USA, and would not be accessible in transit – preventing travellers from simply moving their gadgets into their checked baggage at the half-way point.

Could I plan a longer transit or a stopover in Abu Dhabi, Doha or Dubai to avoid this?

Yes! Rather than choosing flights from Australia to the USA with only short connection times in Abu Dhabi, Doha or Dubai, you could instead plan your journey with a longer transit time on the ground or even an overnight stopover.

With time to access your checked baggage in between, you could instead have your bag tagged only to Abu Dhabi, Doha or Dubai – rather than from Australia straight to the USA – and could then bring your large electronic devices into the cabin on that first flight from Australia.

Once landing in one of these three cities, you’d then collect your bag, place your large electronic devices inside it and then re-check that bag ahead of your onward US-bound flight, on which the ban would indeed apply.

What about passport control during that extended transit?

Australian passport holders can enter the United Arab Emirates (covering Abu Dhabi and Dubai) without a pre-arranged visa, so grabbing your bag, depositing your gadgets and carting the bag back to the airline’s check-in counters ahead of your onward flight wouldn’t present any immigration issues.

In Qatar (Doha), however, Australians do require a visa to enter the country: but Qatari visas need not be pre-arranged and can be purchased at the border for 100QAR (~A$36). Credit cards are accepted for this charge including Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Holders of passports other than Australian passports should seek advice from the relevant governments regarding visa requirements or any visa-waiver arrangements that apply to them.

Wherever you’re headed, collecting your bag and checking it back in does require plenty of time on the ground, so edge towards a leisurely transit rather than a rushed one to guard against any flight delays and lengthy queues.

What happens on the journey home from the USA or the UK?

These restrictions only apply to flights bound for the United States of America and the United Kingdom – they do not apply to any flights from the USA or the UK.

Accordingly, your large electronic devices can be taken into the cabin with you when jetting from the USA to Abu Dhabi, Doha or Dubai, and from the UK to destinations like Istanbul in Turkey: just not on flights in reverse.

Does travel insurance cover electronic devices in checked baggage?

You would need to check with your insurer to determine precisely what your policy covers and any claim limits that may apply, although it’s common for travel insurers to cover electronic devices only when transported by aircraft in carry-on baggage, not in checked baggage.

That restriction may continue to apply even when travellers are forced to place these items inside checked bags, so do check with your insurer or shop around for better coverage if your current policy doesn’t offer the protection you require.

Regardless of your insurance coverage, hard-shell suitcases with fixed-place locks give your device the best chances of arriving in one piece – and arriving, period – being resistant to damage and intrusion.

Soft-sided bags with moveable zips can be easily squashed, compressed or accessed, increasing the potential for damage and theft.

What if I simply must have my laptop in the cabin during the flight?

If your flight falls afoul of the restrictions above, your only option to avoid a ban is to re-route your travel via airports or countries which are not targeted by either ban.

For instance, rather than flying from Perth to New York via Dubai, you could instead fly from Perth to New York via Sydney and Los Angeles (or Dallas/Fort Worth), via Auckland and Los Angeles, or via Singapore and Frankfurt, as these routes are not impacted by US’ ban, so laptops continue to be allowed in the cabin.

Travellers who have already booked tickets on affected flights should contact their airline or travel agent to discuss any desired flight changes or to explore their options.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 296

It all seems a bit strange to me, is it a Trump thing?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

No its in repsose to intilegence that the USA and UK goverments have received.

07 Jan 2014

Total posts 39

Passengers travelling through DOH on a QR-QR itinerary with transit less than 96 hours can apply for a transit visa free of charge through the QR website. Applications must be processed at least 7 days before date of first arrival.

Also note that QR can sometimes be reluctant to short check bags to DOH, even in the case of an overnight or lengthy transit.

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 66

I had a 23.5 hour layover in DOH last year en route to AUH.

They tagged the bags through to AUH and I managed to survuve with only my cabin baggage !

It felt surprisingly cathartic when I exited Doha airport without having had the hassle of waiting at the carousel....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 108

It will be interesting to see what happens to pax travelling from China to the US via the UAE or Qatar. Chinese regulations prohibit the carrying of electronic devices in checked baggage... 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 326

Then pax originating in China will need to retrieve their bags at the transit port and place their stuff into the bags there.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Well, one more reason to fly CX of SQ.
This still smacks of protectionism of the US airlines from Trump, masquerading as "security policy".

If there was a very real threat of this from the UAE and Qatar then surely the UK would also have included these airports on their list?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 326

Intelligence is often open to interpretation. In this case, it appears that while the US and the UK have the same intelligence, they have interpreted it a bit differently in respect of which airports and countries are considered to be high risk. 

QF

02 Nov 2012

Total posts 37

Not sure this comment is correct, it applies top all flights from those airports doesn't it, not just the ME3?

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 66

It is a way of deterring people flying on the ME3.


The west has long criticised them for subsidising their fares...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2011

Total posts 78

i wonder how this rule is enforced and monitored. most/many airports do not have gates with scanning equipment, so manual bag searches at the gate similar to today's flights from Oz to the US? Wouldn't be hard to hide a small tablet in amongst magazines, folders etc

24 Dec 2015

Total posts 1

Seems rather like silly security theatre. If I were a bomber whats to stop me flying to a random European city of my choice then onto a non-stop US flight with my dangerous laptop?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 408

I note that EK have partially solved the problem by taking laptops and tablets off people on boarding. A bit like premium hand luggage in Australia. This means there is only one sector affected. They were also very quick in getting a Jennifer Aniston video out about it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

You can't put your radical views in your check-in can you? Most terrorists have come a lot earlier or homegrown and have been influenced. As long as you keep fueling war there this will keep going on, requiring anything other than a phone to be checked-in won't help much. IMO it's just PR from US and UK to seem like they're prepared.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 185

gee-any would be terrorist just fly to Europe first than take another flight with their device-what a hare brain idea again by trump-laptops and other deices if they proved to be possible targets should be banned from all flights.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 40

Scare tactics and distraction by Trump and Mrs May in the UK. A checked in device is just as dangerous as a carry aboard. E-Readers as well is just madness! We are in real trouble if in 2017 scanners cannot detect bombs in small devices.

Oneworld

29 Sep 2014

Total posts 5

I believe when traveling on QF1 and 9 direct from Melb. to London with stop in Dubai - one will have to go through security in Dubai although not actually stopping over. Will there be enough time for this with the now extended queues in Dubai. There is only 1 -
1 1/2 hr. break in Dubai.

qantas

23 Jun 2014

Total posts 12

Typical pseudo-security nonsense like the no liquids rubbish.  Marvelous for business travelers who only carry hand bags...now they have to carry a suitcase for their lap top to rattle around in....madness 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Dec 2011

Total posts 8

What about cameras, still and movie? I always like to take a couple of shots on the trip just to reinforce the memory banks.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 294

As a Perth based traveller this screams "CX via HKG" for me!

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