Faced with a ban on any carry-on technology larger than a smartphone on direct flights to the USA, the big 'Middle East Three' airlines are finding innovative ways to work around this incredible disincentive for business travellers.
The sweeping ban – which covers everything from noise-cancelling headphones to ebook readers, tablets and laptops – affects almost a dozen counties, but it's the Gulf powerhouses of Emirates, Etihad Airway and Qatar Airways who could be hardest hit.
Emirates now allows travellers to use their laptops, tablets, ebook readers and other such devices until just before the board that flight to the US.
The devices are handed over to Emirates staff at the boarding gate, where they are carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination. The service is being offered free of charge.
Emirates also notes that on flights to the US, "90% of passengers using our onboard mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity services do so via their smart phones."
Etihad is handing out free iPads to all business class and first class passengers – but yes, you do have to give them back at the end of the flight – along with vouchers for free access to the airline's inflight Internet service.
Qatar Airways is going a step further with free laptops. Business class and first class travellers are offered the loan of a MacBook Air on all US-bound flights, and can download any work done during the flight onto a supplied (and Qatar Airways-branded) USB key before handing the laptop back.
Need to jump online to use cloud-based services such Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365? There's one hour of free Internet access for all passengers plus a special $5 deal covering the length of the entire flight.
Passengers can also use their own prohibited laptops, tablets and such through to boarding the flight, when – in a system similar to that of Emirates – the kit is collected, securely packaged, tagged, loaded as check-in baggage and returned on arrival to the US.