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The UK Travel Laptop Ban: What We Know

8 June 2017

Now that summer is almost upon us, many people are booking holidays abroad and will need to know how the implementation of the recent laptop ban affects them. On 21st March 2017, the UK government announced a ban on laptops and tablets over a certain size, on passenger flights from specific airports and countries. The ban evolved from discussion with the US, who announced a similar ban earlier on the same day.  This action may be viewed by many as an inevitable necessity, whilst others may see it as scaremongering. Whatever the case, it is important to know the facts.

The new arrangements dictate that laptops, phones and tablets larger than 16cm long, 9.3cm wide or 1.5cm deep are now banned in hand luggage. All flights to the UK from the following countries will be affected: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Six of the major UK airlines are now enforcing the ban, including: British Airways, easyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson. Eight overseas carriers are also affected: Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Saudia. 

Government representatives have evaded the exact reason as to why this specific ban, from these specific countries, has now come into effect, but there has been recognition of its relation to terrorism: 'I know the House will recognise that we face a constantly evolving threat from terrorism and must respond accordingly to ensure the protection of the public against those who would do us harm'.[1] 

The naming of certain countries indicates the highly strategic nature of this decision. The ban was announced before the recent Manchester and London attacks and so, we must assume it has been in the works for some time.

We ought to ask: will this have any real impact? On the one hand, the ban reduces certain risks. There may be unimaginable benefits of which the general public will remain unaware. Many people will be glad to see action, so feelings of security may increase. On the other hand, the mere fact this is necessary could worsen many other people’s fears and exacerbate feelings of uncertainty. It is also important to note this statement from security officials on gov.uk: ‘We will not hesitate to put in place measures we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate’. We cannot ignore that the implementation of this ban may increase unwarranted notions of prejudice. It may also further sentiments of distrust from the public towards those in power, the results of which will be made apparent on Friday 09.06.17.

Although this ban will affect anyone flying from these destinations, those to whom the impacts of the ban will be most severe are business people travelling abroad. Many professionals require their laptops and other devices so that they may work on the plane. These devices can be carried in cabin baggage, so people are able to take them aboard, but this comes with other risks. Firstly, depending upon your travel insurance provider, you may not be covered if your goods are damaged in the cabin hold. Secondly, as stated on Wired: ‘hundreds of electronic devices in baggage hold could be a severe fire hazard should the lithium-ion batteries in those devices catch fire’. It is important to mention that no one is disputing the very real possibility a terrorist detonating a bomb in flight, by way of a laptop or similar device. Nonetheless, there emerges the question: will this ban be a long term solution, or are we exchanging one risk for another?

Should we be allowing these devices on flights at all? Whether the ban affects hand luggage or hold luggage, flights from Saudi Arabia or the US – if the ban is necessary then should it be enforced across the board? As it stands, the ban will only affect flights from these countries, if one stands as your last point of departure. This means that, those with connecting flights through these countries will be affected, but those who have travelled from these countries and connected through a different destination before their arrival at the UK, will not be affected. Certainly, a more severe ban would be a bigger inconvenience to travellers, but would it quell some of the unwarranted prejudice that may result from the ban?

Whatever your opinion, we must all ensure that we are informed if we choose to travel from these countries, through these airlines.

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