As if flying was not bad enough; hold on, it is going to get a lot worse. In March, the US put a ban on laptops and tablets in cabins from incoming flights from a select few countries, which affected about 50 daily flights. Now it seems that the ban may be extended to include EU countries and is expected to affect more than 400 daily flights and 65 million travelers per year. So what is a traveler to do? What is an agent to do?
To be clear this is not a ban on laptops and tablets entirely—just not in the cabin. Ostensibly, it is because the US does not believe the screening devices in the originating airports are up to snuff (if our own TSA is up to snuff is an entirely different conversation) and concealment and detonation of a bomb would be possible.
- While not in place yet (a decision may be announced this week), this will be a huge inconvenience for travelers—especially those who are not prepared. So what do you need to do?
Follow the news. This ban is not in place yet, but keep up to speed. Remember, this also is your problem if you do not sell air, but it may be included in a supplier package.
- Explain to your clients. If this ban is enacted, they will need to check their laptops and tablets. Cell phones will be allowed, but let’s be honest, it is not easy to work or read on a cell phone. Checked electronics will likely require additional protection due to the way bags are typically handled.
- Security is an issue. The standard mantra for airlines has always been “never check valuables” and I never do. My suitcases are always available for any TSA or baggage handler to rummage through my dirty underwear. With this new edict, I will now need to make sure that my bags are secured and locked. Maybe you should have some locks to sell? A friend of mine who is a pilot was doing a walk-around prior to departure in MIA and caught a baggage handler in the hold going through suitcases. Incidences like this will only get worse.
- Productivity for the business traveler will plummet. For me, if I am traveling on business, I use my flight time to get work done. I do not have the distraction of telephones and the Internet (yes, I am the cheap one that will not buy Internet in flight). I usually will spend my hours deep into Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, or answering emails offline. And to be honest, while I can do most of that on my phone, it is nearly impossible.
Of course there are a few unanswered questions. Is a timed explosion mid-flight from a cargo hold any less severe than a manually detonated one in the cabin? Is there a risk of fire or small explosion from so many batteries in the cargo hold? And the bi one, how will this impact leisure travel to Europe?
What I do see is an opportunity for some. TSA security locks for suitcases. External keyboards. A boost in sales of real-paper books. Larger screen phones, or phablets. Insurance for loss and damage to equipment—currently the airline’s liability typically will not cover the cost. And quite possibly some technology to allow us to regain what may be lost in this ban.
There is no official timetable for this; so the best advice I can give is to be prepared!