Travellers in power struggle over airline controls on mobile devices

Security curbs on bringing ‘dead’ electronic devices on board aircraft are sparking focus on better battery life

Signs near security in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport informing passengers about new restrictions on travelling to the US. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Signs near security in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport informing passengers about new restrictions on travelling to the US. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 01:05

As if you didn’t have enough to remember when flying, there’s now another security requirement that you could be subjected to.

According to the latest reports from Britain and the US, travellers may now have to turn on battery-powered devices – tablets, smartphones, laptops – to prove that they are working electronics and not harbouring a terrorist threat.

The new regulations come amid heightened fears that a new type of explosive has been developed that could slip through existing security measures.

But what does it mean for passengers? If you’ve flown to the US or Britain on a long-haul flight, there’s a chance that you’ve arrived in the country with a dead tablet, a dwindling phone and a laptop battery that has seen better days. That wouldn’t be a problem if you’re already at your final destination, but what if you have a connecting flight?

It’s all a bit confusing at the moment, with some airlines saying travellers will not be allowed to carry devices on board that have run out of power, and must make other arrangements to get them to their final destination, while others – British Airways for example – have told passengers they will be refused travel and have their flights rearranged. Virgin Atlantic and BA will foot the bill for sending on any uncharged electronic device to passengers prevented from flying with them under new regulations. Yet others are still trying to work out exactly how they will operate under the new regime.

With the best intentions in the world, it’s likely that at some point you will arrive at the airport to find that your phone battery has died on the trip there. Or it’s likely to go at some point before you reach your connecting flight.

So what are your options? Finding a power outlet in an airport to give you just enough battery power to satisfy airport security can be difficult. If you are lucky enough to have airline lounge access, it’s not a problem – there are usually plenty of power points around that you can use for a quick charge – but if you have to fight with the thousands of other travellers milling around the departures area for access to the one sponsored charging area, things can get difficult.

Airports are also likely to get a lot more precious about the plug points, as power becomes a vital commodity for travellers.

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