Preparing for a flight has always been a key part of any holiday or business trip abroad but more so in recent years with strict restrictions on items that can be carried in hand luggage. Passengers have become used to disposing of drinks before arriving in the airport terminal (or surreptitiously tipping them into pot plants should they forget) and splitting essential liquids, such as shampoo, into tiny bottles just to bypass the beady eyes of airport security.
Now, however, a whole new raft of restrictions affecting some flights to the UK have been introduced – and to avoid embarrassment (and potentially having your electronics confiscated), it’s well-worth familiarizing yourself with the rules before departing for the airport.
So what is the ’gadget ban’?
Introduced in March 2017, the ‘gadget ban’ predominantly affected six Middle Eastern and North African countries that operate flights to the UK and US. While initial reports suggested the new rules would be imposed across the EU, some countries – Germany, Switzerland and Spain among them – refused to follow suit, leading to confusion at airport check-in desks about whether the ban applied. In July, amendments to the rules were made by the UK government (see ‘Will my flight be affected?’, below), indicating that the current situation is fluid and likely to change again in future.
Introduced because of fears that there would be attempts to detonate explosives hidden inside an electronic device, the ‘gadget ban’ prohibits passengers from carrying certain equipment in the cabin of an aircraft. While the ban states the minimum sizes of devices affected (16 x 9.3 x 1.5cm), it’s perhaps easier to think in these terms: if it’s larger than a standard mobile phone, it must be stored in your hold baggage. However, the ban doesn’t just affect laptops, tablets and e-readers: keyboards, transformers (should you really want to carry one) and external HDDs are also included.
If you’re travelling only with hand luggage, you may be offered the chance to stow your device in the hold free of charge but, if in doubt, leave your device at home.
Will my flight be affected?
The UK ‘gadget ban’ is not the same as the US version, so it’s important to understand the details of the rules affecting British flights.
Firstly, the ban only applies to direct inbound flights to UK airports (so you can enjoy reading your e-book on the way out but not on your return).
Secondly, all flights from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are subject to the ban, except for those departing in Turkey and Tunis-Carthage International in Tunisia. Expect long queues for security checks at airports in these countries.
However, some individual airlines have negotiated exemptions from the ‘gadget ban’ after discussions with the government, so check with your airline to find out if your flight will be affected.
Is my electronic device insured when in the hold?
Travel insurance policies often state that valuable items should remain with the passenger during a flight, so technically placing your laptop in the hold could void your insurance.
However, according to the Association of British Insurers, ‘…some insurers already take a flexible approach to claims if a passenger has been forced to put items in the hold by circumstances out of their control. If devices are damaged during a flight, there’s also the potential to seek compensation through the airline.’ (independent.co.uk, 22nd March 2017).
As ever, check with your insurance company before travelling.
Is the ‘gadget ban’ for the long haul?
The current ban on electronic devices was intelligence-led and has already been modified, so there is no reason to assume that these regulations will be altered by Britain’s exit from the European Union in 2019. However, airport security is one of many issues of concern post-Brexit although it is mere speculation at this stage to predict how policies will change.
As for the ‘gadget ban’: with tensions high across the world, it’s likely that passenger safety will continue to trump security measures for some time to come.
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