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

By Chris Chamberlin, March 21 2017

The US Government has banned passengers from carrying devices such as laptops, tablets and ebook readers on direct flights bound for the United States from a host of Middle Eastern and African countries.

Impacting flights to the US departing from 10 specific airports, Australian travellers jetting to the States with Gulf airlines Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways will be affected by the new security rules which require they pack any device other than a smartphone into their checked luggage.

Other devices banned from carry-on also include cameras, DVD players, travel printers/scanners and electronic games "larger than a smartphone", although exceptions will be made for medical devices such as CPAP sleep machines.

The US Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that Abu Dhabi and Dubai International Airports are among the 10 targeted by the ban – being the hubs of Etihad Airways and Emirates – as is Doha's Hamad International Airport, home to Qatar Airways.

Also on the list: Istanbul's Ataturk Airport – hub of Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines – along with the international airports in Cairo, Kuwait City and Casablanca (Mohammed V Airport).

Qantas partner Royal Jordanian's base of Amman (Queen Alia International Airport) is too on the list, plus Jeddah's King Abdul-Aziz International Airport and Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia, both affecting passengers travelling with SkyTeam alliance member Saudia.

"Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items," reads a statement distributed to media by the US Department of Homeland Security.

"Based on this information... it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last point of departure airports to the United States," the statement continues.

Etihad, Emirates confirm cabin tech ban from March 25; Qatar Airways confirms March 21

A spokesperson for Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways told Australian Business Traveller that "following a directive from U.S. authorities affecting selected airports, Etihad Airways has been advised that guests travelling to the United States from Abu Dhabi International Airport are not permitted to carry electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone in the cabin." 

"Mobile phones and medical devices are permitted but larger items such as laptops, tablets, cameras and e-readers will need to be placed into checked-in baggage. For those guests bound for the U.S., this must be done at the point of origin which may not necessarily be at Abu Dhabi International Airport. The new rules come into effect for those US-bound flights departing Abu Dhabi on 25th March."

This is despite the presence of a US-approved 'pre-clearance' channel at Abu Dhabi, which sees TSA officers clear travellers for arrival into the US as domestic passengers.

Dubai-centred Emirates provided a similar statement, adding that "The directive ... is valid until October 14, 2017. It is applicable to all US-bound passengers from Dubai International Airport, whether originating or transiting through."

Qatar Airways passengers departing Doha will instead find the new rules applicable from "March 21, in accordance with new United States government regulations," a spokesperson for the airline advised Australian Business Traveller.

Given travellers received no prior notice of these changes and may already be en route to Doha with connections planned to the US, "Qatar Airways has made special arrangements to assist passengers in securing their devices in the aircraft's baggage hold".

Connecting flights from Perth

Non-stop flights from Australian cities to the United States – including from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth and Honolulu – will not be affected, nor will flights from New Zealand, Fiji, Asia, Europe or Central and South America to the USA.

However, consider the case example of travellers from Perth who fly to the USA via Abu Dhabi, Doha or Dubai – a popular alternative compared to flying east to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane for a connecting Qantas or Virgin Australia service to the US, followed by a second connection if bound for the US east coast.

Those Perth passengers will not be able to bring their laptop, tablet, digital camera etc. even onto the first leg of their trip from Perth to their chosen Gulf hub – because they won't have access to their checked luggage once it's handed over to the airline at Perth, not to be seen again until their arrival into the USA.

That's unless they're able to have their bag checked-through only to Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Doha, having planned a longer layover in the Middle East with sufficient time to clear immigration and collect and re-check their baggage.

This could allow Perth-based flyers to make full use of large electronic devices on the first flight of their journey, before stowing those gadgets in their checked baggage ahead of an onward US-bound flight.

Along with significantly reducing the inflight productivity of business travellers – or their productivity while on the ground in transit – some high flyers may also discover that their travel insurance doesn’t cover valuables such as laptops and digital cameras for loss, theft or damage when transported in airline checked baggage.

Updated March 22, 2017 with comments from the US DHS, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

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!

Qatar Airways

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 26

Would this apply to Electronic Flight Bags or would crew be exempt?

Some news outlets are reporting an exemption for pilot EFBs (which we're not in a position to confirm), but as we focus our coverage on the passenger aspects of travel (rather than broader 'aviation', as such), it's not something we'd cover. :)

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

You would logically expect crew to be exempt when it comes to these devices.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 222

I heard it was direct flights, not one stop such as Abu Dhabi i.e. PER to AUH to NYC etc...

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2341

Isn't that what the article says?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

Perhaps, some clarification is required David?

Certainly, on a 'through' trip where a transit only is involved, Chris is correct.

However, if a stopover where luggage is claimed at (AUH, DXB), then it is my understanding that both EY and EK have stated that electronic devices such as those specified can be carried on the first leg ex Australia. Naturally, on the second leg (at a later stage), that same equipment must be checked luggage from (AUH, DXB) to the USA. Still a developing story .. and policies being formulated, subject to change etc - as is to be expected.

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 113

It would be unsafe to put MacBook's or any electronic device with lithium batteries in the cargo hold, they'll explode and cause a fire. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 457

Covo95,

That is incorrect...

Most if not all MacBooks, Samsung, Microsoft etc products that use Lithium Ion batteries are air-freighted into the country - most of these products actually have a IATA dangerous goods exemption allowing them to be transported as air cargo. 

Aside from Samsung's recent issue which was due to a manufacturing fault, most Lith Ion battery thermal runaway incidents are due to impact or crush incidents where the structure of the battery is compromised. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2016

Total posts 11

I would've thought the risk of impact or crush incidents would become much higher if the laptops etc. are in checked baggage packed by the travelling public (opposed to specifically packed for cargo)?

I thought airlines generally banned anything with Li-Ion batteries from going into check baggage, I guess that will change.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 457

ecbailey

Your points are valid - my earlier post was in response to the general assertion by the OP that a MacBook if packed in luggage would suffer a battery fire. 

The issue at the moment is that we (i.e. the gadget, freight, pax carrier industry) don't know or can't predict with certainty the point where pressure applied to the battery leads to the thermal runaway. 

I didn't say it before but I'll say it now - the policy is stupid, could only come from an administration being led by Trump...

Lith Ion batteries (Samsung and Boeing aside) are inherently safe until they suffer trauma. Trusting some numpty pax to pack a laptop properly in checked luggage goes against everything the industry has done to address the known risks...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

It would be handy to check the official ICAO policy on this issue. Currently (and this is confirmed on most - if not all - airline websites), SPARE lithium batteries must not be carried in the cabin and can only be carried in checked luggage. There is no problem with a laptop with installed batteries being carried in checked luggage, according to ICAO. The real risk you run .. is theft.

22 Oct 2014

Total posts 9

How will the ban effect the EK flt DXB to JFK via MXP or any flts that originate in the Middle East with a stop in Europe. Big difference between direct and non stop. Not sure President Trump knows it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Sep 2012

Total posts 244

Good point! 

Dubai - NYC via Athens is another example. But sadly, the majority of flights go direct and this will kill off demand for those services.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 326

Nothing to do with Trump - this is Dept of Homeland Security saying it has received a credible threat.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Sep 2012

Total posts 244

This is Trump protectionism at its worst. The US Airline lobby has been trying to find ways to hurt the Middle East carriers which have taken significant market share from the likes of American, United and Delta ex US. This is the way to do it. Scare off the lucrative corporate traveler who won't be willing to place their company laptop into checked luggage, and force them to fly via the European hubs of oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam with BA, Lufthansa, Air FranceKLM etc.

Let's see how this plays out. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Sep 2011

Total posts 182

Nothing to do with Trump. And now the British government have announced the same policy so it will affect Qantas flights as well. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2014

Total posts 165

Won't affect Qantas flights to the UK because DXB (along with AUH and DOH) are not affected by the UK's policy.
Great. If the US government would just sign this form I send them making them liable for damaging my $10k worth of camera equipment, which is insurably worthless if I check it, then we'll all get along just fine.

/endsarcasm

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 210

What a load of nonsense. Let's do something really dumb to cause problems for people and tell them it's to improve security.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 210

oops...not to mention the risk of carrying Li-Ion batteries in the hold. I know that there are warnings everywhere about making sure you pack electronic devices in hand luggage. 

16 Dec 2011

Total posts 43

Serves the US right if ann these airlines fly via Canada instead.  I can see this hurting the US as much as others - What goes around comes around..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

One of Royal Jordanian's flights to USA actually transits in Montreal before flying to Detroit DTW. It is affected as well.

17 Sep 2015

Total posts 391

The USA President has access to much more security information than anyone above.  It's possible that the ban is an overreaction, but maybe not...

16 Dec 2011

Total posts 43

That's true, but he only believes Faux news..

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 938

Of course it is an overreaction. No need to ban anything. Increase ETD use, power on device, xray. No issue.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

And anyone have conspiracy theory what is rationale behind this move?
On side note - I never like any of ME3, so I am not affected :-)
Zac
Zac

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2014

Total posts 129

Wow - how inconvenient.


The inclusion of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar smacks of protectionism for US airlines. This will impact US citizens too though so hopefully there will be a backlash and common sense will prevail.

Nice reason not to work on the flight, but I still don't think I could bring myself to check my laptop - would have to choose another carrier or route. But unlikely to be a US airline... prob Cathay etc.

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 107

Are any or all of these countries on the Trump travel ban list that's been overturned twice by the Courts?

Could be setting up for a future appeal hearing: that the threat from the travel ban countries is real and here's our response so far.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2015

Total posts 22

BBC reporting UK will be following suit with similar restrictions, which I'm sure will affect a significant amount of travelers here. QF, EK, EY, QR routes into the UK would be all affected. Perhaps a welcome relief for the Asian legacy carriers!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Sep 2011

Total posts 182

I was thinking the same and suspect it will now hurt Qantas due to their misguided idea of getting in to bed with Emirates and flying through Dubai rather than staying with Oneworld and BKK/SIN
RJW
RJW

22 Mar 2017

Total posts 1

Note the UK is also banning laptops from 6 Middle East countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39343971 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2011

Total posts 180

The following is now listed on the BA webpage.
If you are flying from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia or Turkey
The new cabin baggage security requirements only affect direct flights FROM these countries to the UK.

You will not be able to carry laptops, tablets and larger mobile phones in your hand baggage on these flights. Only mobile phones smaller than the following dimensions will be allowed in the cabin:

  • Length: 16 cm
  • Width: 9.3 cm
  • Depth: 1.5 cm

> More information can be found on the UK Department for Transport's website

You should either not travel with these larger items, or pack them in your checked baggage. The items must be switched off before being placed in checked baggage.

If you are part-way through your journey (e.g. on a short business trip or holiday) or about to start your journey in one of these countries and feel that you are unable to immediately comply with the new UK government requirements, then we will be able to rebook your flight to a later date so that you are able to meet them. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

So perhaps I've missed something or not read something, but is the AusBT universe suggesting this is either:

a. US Homeland Security responding to a threat with a short term, (albeit irritating,) measure.

b. US airlines trying to regulate/legislate themselves out of having to compete with the ME3.

c. None of the above.

d. Something else.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

My vote would be:   d. Something else

ABC News is currently reporting that this is not a short-term, creditable threat (a. above) but an on-going refinement of security policies. The fact that the UK DoT has invoked the same policy seems to nullify any concept of (b. airlines generally, trying to regulate ..).

Hopefully, some common sense logic will emerge for the reasons behind this over the next few days. ABC News also reporting that non-stop QF flights from Australia to the USA are not affected - and that QF does not expect any change in this policy, at this point.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 210

Looks like the end of hand luggage only travel for these folk.
This is nothing else than Trumps "America First" approach trying to hit the big Middle Eastern carriers HARD and thus protecting the USA airlines.

I mean seriously;

  1. Each computer tablet is already X-RAYED on a tray on it's own, and if desired these could be enhanced to image match pre-loaded x-ray images of device types to take the human eye element out of tampering detection.
  2. They are still a risk if not more so (battery fire being undetected) when in checked baggage
  3. Since when did a Terrorist a) ever want to blow up a middle eastern (i.e. Muslim) based carrier and b) If they want to, they are smart enough to just launch an attack from a non-muslim airport.
  4. How many people in the USA have ever died from aircraft related terrorism compared to like say ALL OTHER FORMS human activity induced premature death?

I am disgusted by this move on so many levels. We have to stop this madness.

Wake up media and people that are buying the spin that this is related to an elevated security threat!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

Are you kidding? Seriously

"Since when did a Terrorist a) ever want to blow up a middle eastern (i.e. Muslim) based carrier and b) If they want to, they are smart enough to just launch an attack from a non-muslim airport."

Have a think about EgyptAir (last 12 months) or even MAS (possibly twice). One shot down by proven terrorists and the second under 'unexxplained' circumstances. MAS is not a Middle Eastern carrier but is from a predominantly Muslim country.

"How many people in the USA have ever died from aircraft related terrorism compared to like say ALL OTHER FORMS human activity induced premature death?"

Short memory LongtimeFlyer? Ever heard of Pan Am and Lockerbie? Read TWA's history - quite a number of terrorist attacks over the years and that's not even including speculation on TWA 800. Belgian airport massacre, Uganda & Idi Amin rule and hijackings. These are only a few. I could go on quite easily.

Your first two points have some validity .. but ... I'm not sure what amazes me most : your 'disgust' at people's supposed naivety or your total lack of comprehension and sensitivity of the above cited events.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 140

...hate to say it, but I'm not surprised. I spent the month of FEB in the USA and never have I seen the nation more divided between the blue states and the red states. There is genuine fear among people (real or not) - with thanks to Fox News. Terribly sad.

I will be effected as I'm generally flying only with carry-on and enjoy the time out to work on the plane. Alas.

22 Jun 2013

Total posts 98

With the amount of data (work, photos, emails etc.) stored on people's laptops, iPads etc, this opens up the possibility of data theft if and when bags go missing, are lost, miss connections etc.

Not to mention the incentive it gives people to take off with bags other than their own.

15 Nov 2016

Total posts 18

What am I missing, why not just fly via Frankfurt or Paris? Far out this is getting insane. Last week at SYD airport my partner (own stupid fault) had $100 is toiletries confiscated. As I said, own stupid fault. But then the SYD security people suggested if we refill all the large bottles into small 100ml bottles that would be okay! WTF?

QFF

06 Nov 2012

Total posts 47

  1. Was not Pan Am Flight 103 (Lockerbie) brought down by a bomb in checked luggage in the hold?
  2. What's to stop a proposed terrorist getting on a flight from any of the 230(?) other airports with direct flights to the US?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 40

Great! 

Flying ADL-DOH-MIA in 3 weeks.

Thanks a lot Trump!


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