What the cabin laptop ban means for business travel

Everything you need to know about recent restrictions on electronic devices – and how airlines are responding

A business traveller using a loaned laptop in the face of a cabin laptop ban

Some airlines are finding ways to make business travel easier in the face of a cabin laptop ban

In March 2017, the UK government made headlines when it banned large electronic devices from the cabins of selected flights into the country. If you’re flying directly to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia or Saudi Arabia, you can no longer carry any electronic devices larger than the average smartphone in your hand luggage.

The measurements specified are 16cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm (6.2in x 3.6in x 0.5in), which means business travellers face having larger laptops and tablets placed in the hold. You’ll also be affected by the cabin laptop ban if you have a short stopover in one of the named countries.

Putting security first

The decision was made on security grounds: “Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals,” said transport secretary Chris Grayling.

It followed the similar ban on large electronic devices on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East to the United States, based on the advice of national intelligence agencies. At the time of writing, the Trump administration is reportedly considering extending the laptop ban to flights from the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

While the emphasis on airline security is understandable, it poses a problem for those simply hoping to get some work done on their flight or avoid hold-baggage charges on their business trip.

Life after the laptop ban

However, there might be a solution in the works. Following the US laptop ban, some airlines are already offering to loan laptops to business-class passengers on flights to North America, leading to hopes that they may soon do the same for travellers flying to the UK from affected airports.

Leading the way are Middle Eastern carriers Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways – both affected by the new American cabin regulations on flights arriving from Qatar and Abu Dhabi – which have promptly responded by making loan devices available to business-class customers.

Although it’s unclear just how many devices will be available to passengers, the loan service is free, and comes complete with either free or discounted WiFi access.

Looking after your laptop

Going the extra (air) mile, Qatar Airways has also put in place special measures to ensure passengers’ own laptops avoid damage in transit. The airline is offering to securely pack travellers’ personal devices on flights to the US. Laptops, tablets and larger smartphones will be wrapped, tagged and safely returned upon arrival.

While there’s no word yet on whether the same perks will be offered to business-class travellers entering the UK, airlines that operate routes from the countries facing cabin restrictions include British Airways, Turkish Airlines and easyJet.

For advice on staying safe while travelling on business, see our story on the new guidelines from the British Standards Institution.

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