The impending Electronics Ban from the UK to the US #ElectronicsBan

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I’ve been asked a lot the last few days what I think about the (possibly, but probably) impending electronics ban expansion.

The ban states that you may not bring anything larger than a mobile phone on board. No tablets and no laptops.

Currently, the #ElectronicsBan affects Middle Eastern airlines. On flights from the Middle East to the US on the Middle Eastern airlines: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, and Kuwait Airlines.

But now there are widespread rumors of this ban being expanded to include travel from Europe to the US, with CNN estimating up to 350 flights a day could be affected.  It’s expected that an announcement could come as soon as this Wednesday, when EU and US officials are slated to meet.

The effects would be far reaching.

For passengers, it means no work on flights that can reach over a dozen hours long, causing many would be travelers to think twice about the necessity of a trip that will cause a loss of an entire day’s productivity on the return.  Even leisure travelers will be frustrated by having less to entertain them on the flight. Another big issue is having to stow your laptop in the cargo hold. You’d be right be to be concerned about your laptop making it home with you and you probably have confidential data stored on it to boot.

For the airlines, it would mean a certain drop in business. Emirates recently cut flight frequency to the US citing losses from the ban.  And the CEO of Qatar Airways is on record saying this does nothing to improve safety.  I don’t believe it’s very clear right now if this affects UK/EU airlines only or all flights from Europe on any carrier.

But there’s another big question:

Does the ban truly help reduce the risk of an attack on an airliner?

And even if it does to some small degree, does it outweigh the risk that all those laptops in the cargo hold could actually cause an explosion that brings down a plane? I’m not being dramatic, it has brought down planes twice. This is because the lithium-ion batteries used in laptops can explode under the right circumstances. This is what was happening with the Galaxy Note last year causing the FAA to ban them from flights.  I’m actually going to feel dramatically LESS safe if I have to fly on a plane affected by the #ElectronicsBan.

It’s not 100% clear what happens if you were to fly from Europe to the US via Canada. I would assume that, in this case, you could use your devices the whole time as Canada has no similar ban and is not currently considering one. And the US isn’t currently discussing applying the ban to Canada. A flight from say London to NYC via Toronto would only add 1-2 hours to your trip, but that still seems like a lot of effort just to have your laptop out. It also, in my opinion, speaks to the silliness of the entire ban.

What are your thoughts on all this?