US Government Considering Electronics Ban from Europe
In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen more and more news about a possible electronics ban for flights originating from Europe to the United States. This would be an expansion on the current ban for flights originating from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. According to CBS News, the Department of Homeland Security is weighing the advantages of expanding the ban against disruptions it could cause. Government officials have been meeting with US airlines on a weekly basis and a final decision is expected before the end of May.
I flew from Doha, Qatar to JFK (Qatar Airways) on Thursday and the electronics ban caused a big headache. There was additional security screening at the gate and all electronics larger than a cell phone had to be reviewed by security before boarding. I had several cameras and a laptop so they recommended I gate check my carry-on bag instead of having security box the electronic items up. Obviously checking electronics is a big concern for many travelers as we don’t want our valuable items stolen before retrieving them at baggage claim. I also was unable to get any work done for the 13-hour flight, which was incredibly frustrating.
I think Qatar Airways handled the ban well but it was a pain to have gate security review your electronics and then have you either check your bag at the gate or have them package up your electronics for pickup at baggage claim in the US. If all flights originating in Europe had to implement these procedures, I think it would be a real nightmare as many European (and US based) airlines are not nearly as organized and well staffed as many of the middle eastern airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways. There were two airline employees specifically tasked with returning your electronic items back to you at baggage claim, which many airlines simply don’t have staffing for.
Safety is paramount but there is definitely risk from carrying volatile lithium batteries in the cargo hold of these long-haul aircraft. This is the reason they are currently carried in the cabin at this point. If they start on fire it hopefully can be put out quickly, but in the cargo hold that’s a whole different story. I hope enhanced screening procedures can be implemented in Europe so we can avoid the nightmare at the gate.