Q&A: How will the UK and US laptop ban affect travellers?

Will Ireland introduce a similar ban? Will insurance cover damage to electronics?

A man opens his luggage and to show his electronic equipment at security point at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The United States and Britain have banned some electronic devices from carry-on baggage on flights coming from a number of countries. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA.

A man opens his luggage and to show his electronic equipment at security point at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The United States and Britain have banned some electronic devices from carry-on baggage on flights coming from a number of countries. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA.

 

The UK government announced on Tuesday it was introducing a ban on laptops and tablets on inbound flights from six Middle Eastern countries.

The ban followed a similar move by the US government on Monday which barred passengers from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries from carrying larger portable electronic devices on board planes.

Under the ban, passengers will still be able to travel with these items but they must be put in their checked baggage.

Will these moves affect Irish passengers or people travelling to and from Irish airports?

The ban on laptops and tablets in cabin luggage will not apply to flights from Muslim majority countries to Irish airports, the Department of Transport said.

“Aviation security in Ireland is governed primarily by EU rules and regulations and Ireland complies with the EU’s common security standards,” a spokesman said. “Security measures at Irish airports have not changed nor are they expected to change in the near future.”

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said it had noted the directive issued by the US authorities but that it did not currently affect “any Irish airports or any Irish registered airlines”.

It said the department was responsible for aviation security policy and the IAA, which has responsibility for monitoring compliance with aviation security regulations, would ensure the implementation of directed measures. The matter would be kept under review, the IAA said.

Aer Lingus said “the enhanced security procedures” did not apply to routes operated by it.

An Emrirates Airlines flight comes in for to land at Los Angeles International Airport on March 21st, 2017. The UAE is among a number of countries affected by a US measure to ban certain electronic devices from airplane cabins. Photograph: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.
An Emrirates Airlines flight comes in for to land at Los Angeles International Airport on March 21st, 2017. The UAE is among a number of countries affected by a US measure to ban certain electronic devices from airplane cabins. Photograph: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

Which countries are affected then?

The UK ban affects passengers flying from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The US measures apply on flights from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well as some services from Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The US has banned the devices in cabin baggage on flights from specific airports, rather than countries, and specific Middle Eastern airlines, including Kuwait airways, which stops over at Shannon. Canada’s transport minister Marc Garneau said on Tuesday it was also considering introducing restrictions on electronics in plane cabins.

And which electronic items are now banned from some airplane cabins?

Most smart phones will still be permitted in the cabin but the new UK measures mean that - on the selected routes - phones, laptops and tablets measuring above 16cm in length, 9.3cm in width and 1.5cm in depth will not be allowed in the cabin. The same applies to Kindles and e-readers.

A passenger scans his boarding card in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London. The British Government has banned certain electronic devices on flights from certain Middle East countries following a similar move by the US authorities. Photograph: Andrew Cowie/EPA.
A passenger scans his boarding card in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London. The British Government has banned certain electronic devices on flights from certain Middle East countries following a similar move by the US authorities. Photograph: Andrew Cowie/EPA.

Why has the UK government introduced the ban?

The UK Department of Transport posted on its website on Tuesday that the ban would only apply to inbound flights and would not affect people travelling from UK airports. “The UK has some of the most robust aviation security measures in the world but we must keep this under constant review based on assessment of risk,” it said.

All larger electronic devices would be banned from the cabins, regardless of whether they were purchased in Duty Free, the department said. Under the heading of additional costs incurred as a result of the new ban, the statement said all costs would be a “matter for the airlines” who were encouraged “to take a customer focused approach”. Airlines flying to the UK have been given a number of days to enforce the ban.

And why have they done it in the US?

A statement on Tuesday from the US Department for Homeland Security said: “The US government is concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years, as evidenced by the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt; the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia, and the 2016 armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul.

“Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”

The US authority said that based on the trend it has “determined it is prudent to enhance security, to include airport security procedures for passengers at certain last point of departure airports to the United States”.

The statement said the ban would remain in place “until the threat changes” but a spokesman later said the directive would run until October 14th and could be extended for another year “should the evaluation of the threat remain the same”. Airlines have until Saturday to enforce the US ban.

Many experts in terrorism and security have questioned the UK and US governments’ decision to ban larger electronic devices but still allow smart phones on board flights.Photograph: PA.
Many experts in terrorism and security have questioned the UK and US governments’ decision to ban larger electronic devices but still allow smart phones on board flights.Photograph: PA.

Why are laptops and tablets considered dangerous in cabins while smart phones are not?

Many experts in terrorism and security have questioned the UK and US governments’ decision to ban larger electronic devices but still allow smart phones on board flights. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 made headlines last year due to faulty batteries overheating and exploding. Many airlines subsequently banned the use of these smart phones on board their flights.

However, security and defence analyst Declan Power told The Irish Times that larger electronic devices like laptops and tablets would have a greater harddrive capacity and thus were more likley to be used as “disruptive devices” on board flights. He added that it would be very difficult to activate an inert device packed away in the hold of a plane.

“The plane is at its most vulnerable during take off or landing. A tablet or laptop is just another piece of electronic equipment that can be adapted in so many ways. Once it’s turned off in the hold, it can’t do anything.”

Does insurance cover the damage, loss or theft of electronic items placed in the hold?

A spokeswoman for VHI health insurance said while valuables worth up to €400 would be covered by the group’s MultiTrip policy, valuables left in the hold of a plane would not be covered.

Laptops and tablets are defined as valuable items and as a result would not be covered if lost, stolen or damaged while in checked in luggage.

Under VHI’s MultiTrip policy “loss theft or damage to valuables from checked-in luggage left in the custody of an airline or hotel and/or valuables packed in luggage left in the luggage hold or storage area of another carrier are not covered”.

However, under EU law and the Montreal Convention, passengers can claim compensation of up to €1,437 from their airline if baggage fails to arrive on time or is damaged.