The United States and the United Kingdom have curtailed the use of most electronic devices in the cabin during flights from a number of nations. This obvious inconvenience for business travelers should be worked into corporate travel policies.
This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security banned people from carrying on personal electronic devices larger than smartphones at 10 airports (in Egypt, Turkey, two in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi).
Larger devices must be stored in checked luggage. The announcement was made on March 20 and airlines given four days to comply.
The United Kingdom followed suit with a somewhat less restrictive set of rules. It banned travelers from carrying devices onboard direct flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The rules apply to 14 airlines, six of which are UK-based.
The Daily Mail reported today that Turkey was in touch with authorities in the United States seeking to end or moderate the U.S. rules.
The U.S. ban is likely to raise eyebrows because it seems similar to the immigration bans that President Trump has so far unsuccessfully sought to deploy in the United States. NBC News reported today that the move was not a reaction to any imminent threats. Instead, it was thought prudent as a way to proactively thwart that line of attack:
The U.S. move stemmed, American officials said, from an evolving judgment call that al Qaeda and ISIS are constantly seeking to perfect methods to hide bombs in devices. The U.S. is continually gathering new intelligence about that effort, the officials said.
The move got a bit of bipartisan cover from California Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and one of the key representatives investigating the Trump campaign and administration’s relationship with Russia. Schiff called the steps “both necessary and proportional to the threat,” the NBC News story said.
This is obviously a big deal to business travelers who frequent that region of the world. Now, travel time will be a complete waste and that likely will cut down on executives’ willingness to travel. The separation of high-level executives from their devices in cases in which they carry sensitive data could be a consideration, as well. And all electronics stowed in checked luggage are at risk for damage or theft.
IT departments should closely monitor the situation and work the changes into their corporate travel policies. The new rules are unlikely to be significantly changed.
In the long term, it may be provide a spark to the unified communications sector. The technology is solid and always getting better. Executives faced with long days without the ability to get anything done may be willing to give the technology another look.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.