People, Travel

Mideast Airlines Circumvent American Laptop Ban

Corporate business travelers are airlines' single most important block of customers.Corporate business travelers are airlines' single most important block of customers.

Middle East's top airlines are finding clever ways around a US ban that forbids passengers from bringing any electronic devices larger than a cellphone into planes conducting non-stop flights to the US from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

The ban, which covers nine airlines, has been an unmitigated headache for the airlines and their customers, Business Insider reported.

Business travelers and their laptops are generally inseparable. Many passengers use time in transit to work. The laptops might also contain information considered sensitive or confidential by companies.

The ban and resulting headaches have become a major concern for the affected airlines because repeat corporate business travelers and their immense spending power are their single most important block of customers. As a result, several airlines, including industry heavyweights Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines, have come up with a series of ways to counter the ban.

Based on the latest rankings from the respected consumer-aviation website Skytrax, these four airlines also represent the first-, second-, sixth-, and seventh-ranked carriers in the world. Emirates, was the first of the major airlines to offer a response to the conundrum. On March 23, Emirates announced a service that allows passengers to use their laptops and tablets until it's time to board their US-bound flights instead of checking them with their luggage.

Prior to boarding, passengers hand over their laptops and other electronic devices to staff members to pack them in secure boxes before storing them in the cargo hold.

Turkish Airlines has joined Emirates with a similar laptop handling policy. According to this policy, passengers' electronic devices will be packed in secure boxes at the departure gate. Once in the US, the boxes will be returned to them by the airline.

To ensure security, airline employees will personally return each box to its rightful owner by matching baggage tag numbers.

This week, Etihad upped the ante by announcing that first and business class passengers on flights to the US will have access to complimentary WiFi and loaner iPads.


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