My Experience With The #ElectronicsBan

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Last Sunday I flew from Washington DC to Dubai before the ban on electronics from select Middle Eastern and African airports was announced.

I wrote my piece on the ban last Tuesday. I don’t have issue with actual security measures, but the way the ban was implemented makes it seem like security theater at best.

Why else would a serious threat only apply from select airports and not worldwide? Why else would it only apply from cities without the presence of a US airline? Why else would it apply to very safe and stable countries like Qatar and the UAE and not Nigeria which has been rocked by Islamic terror (and served by Delta)? Why else did the US ban Qatar and the UAE while the UK excluded those countries from their version of the ban? What’s stopping a terrorist from flying from Morocco to the US via Europe with electronics? Do they only know how to book nonstops?

It’s hard to make the case that this isn’t at least partially about crony protectionism, as the US carriers are unable to deliver a product like foreign carriers can. I’m sure there was a threat, but the method in which it’s being enacted seems more than coincidental.

But the most ridiculous part of the ban is that Abu Dhabi is included. There is full TSA standard screening there and you must clear US customs before you board a US bound plane from Abu Dhabi. Upon landing in the US you continue in the secure part of the airport as if you arrived on any domestic US flight. Baggage is forwarded automatically to your final destination without needing to pick it up.

Some Middle Eastern airlines, like Emirates and Turkish, are allowing passengers to use their electronics until just before they board their US bound flight and then gate check them.

Presumably due to needing to pass US security and customs in Abu Dhabi, Etihad does not offer a gate checking option.

 

Originally Etihad declared that you must check in electronics at your origin airport, even if you were just connecting in Abu Dhabi on the way to the US:

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That was updated to make it optional to do so:

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I flew yesterday from the Maldives to Cleveland via Abu Dhabi, JFK, and LaGuardia. In the Maldives several Etihad agents told me that I had to check in all of my electronics in my luggage. They didn’t know of the updated policy, so I may have taken the liberty of misleading the overzealous agents in the Maldives…

Upon arrival in Abu Dhabi you need to go through a security screening to enter the airport. After security I went to the transfer desk to ask what I could do with my electronics and they just shrugged their shoulders.

So I went into the Etihad First Class Lounge and asked the agents what I needed to do. They made some calls and told me to declare my electronics at the US preclearance facility. So after a massage and kosher meal in the lounge I headed that way.

At security they were fully prepared for this scenario. They had special padded laptop bags and boxes for electronics.

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They did not have padding for other items, but I brought bubble wrap provided by the S. Regis Maldives and used that to protect the drone and camera.

I wound up checking in my:
-Sony A6000 with wide angle and telepohoto lens.
-Mavic Pro Fly More Drone Bundle
-Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

I did not have to check in my:
-Verizon Galaxy Note Edge
-Google Fi Nexus 6
-GoPro Hero4 Silver
-Bose QC35 Bluetooth Headphones
-Spigen Bluetooth Selfie Stick
-15K MAh USB power bank

I got a claim tag for each of the items that were checked in, which helped assure that items would not stolen. Additionally the box had a fragile sticker and specifically said that it was not to be opened.

Even the US agents there were baffled by Abu Dhabi being included in the electronics ban. Abu Dhabi has literally bent over backwards to accommodate US security and customs. Meanwhile now that has made things even worse as electronics need to be checked at security rather than at the gate.

It was my first flight without a camera and laptop in many years. Luckily I had my own apartment on the plane and had a good night’s sleep. But more on the actual ground and flight experience in a future trip report.

More critically, all of my electronics made it to JFK in one piece.

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If you do fly Etihad to the US I’d highly recommend bringing all of your electronics to the US preclearance security and customs to check in your items rather than put them in your suitcase. If you are connecting in Abu Dhabi from another airport where they insist you check your electronics in you should be able to insist that you want to check your items in Abu Dhabi, but either way, they won’t actually check your items for electronics in those airports.

I’d definitely plan to bring bubble wrap to protect your items in the box provided by Etihad in Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile Etihad has announced that they will provide free WiFi and free loaner iPads for business and first class passengers flying from Abu Dhabi to the US. Nice touch, day late and a dollar short for me though. Truthfully though, a loaner laptop and camera would have been more useful for my needs. An iPad doesn’t really do anything for me that my phone and the plane’s entertainment system can’t do.

Still, it’s a nice offering on Etihad’s part, though I wonder what free WiFi will do to data speeds.

In the end, Emirates and Etihad shower classes are still awesome and unforgettable, with or without electronics. However it’s an open question if business people will book away from these airlines due to the ban.

What are your thoughts on the electronics ban? Are you having 2nd thoughts about booking a Shower Class award due to the ban? Hit the comments!

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31 Comments On "My Experience With The #ElectronicsBan"

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sr

idk, but all those electronics sitting there in boxes waiting at baggage claim are begging some someone to “mistakenly” take other peoples stuff….

Michal

How did u get kosher meal in Abu Dhabi lounge?

iahphx

“It’s hard to make the case that this isn’t at least partially about crony protectionism, as the US carriers are unable to deliver a product like foreign carriers can. I’m sure there was a threat, but the method in which it’s being enacted seems more than coincidental.”

Stop it, Dan. I know you and other points bloggers are worried that the Feds will pull the plug on your free (and Middle East government subsidized) award tickets, but this laptop ban has nothing to do with subsidies and unfair competition. You’re just spouting a crazy conspiracy theory.

This doesn’t mean the ban is good policy, of course. We’re still learning “why” it was deemed necessary. Since it involves anti-terrorist security, the answers aren’t always straight-forward. There does seem to be something about the security at the particular airports that were targeted that was deemed inadequate. Were these concerns justified? I don’t know. And I’m pretty sure you don’t know, either. Being inconvenienced isn’t grounds for making false accusations, though. We have enough conspiracy theorists in this world.

Eddie

Out of curiosity, how many points per night was the St Regis and and how much mileage did you use for the flights?

EJB

Did they have the Johnny Walker XR that they confiscated from me at the preclearance facility? They told me I could get it back from them next time I visit AUH 🙂

josh

Is there a way to get Emirates shower class using UR points?

Josh

How many UR to Korean would it be round trip for shower class?
Thanks dan

Boo

Why do u keep referring to it as shower class

Ericmedschoolgnd

Any pics of the food they offered? Dan we really need. Better site for kosher airline foods… the forum just says the manufacturer but never provides pics…im flying jfk-hel-svo-tlv in J for pesach..ill take some pics!

Andrew

@iahphx The scariest thing that can come from a government that uses extreme security measures is when citizens start telling other citizens to stop questioning the government. It would be one thing if the government provided a clear rationale for the electronics ban. Dan is pointing out what many of us see, so if you have information to the contrary other than just “don’t be a conspiracy theorist” then please provide it. Dan, do you think that there will be any retaliatory moves from ME carriers? Or maybe even better deals to keep people flying them?

Ban

Does Luftansa also have this electronic van traveling JFK>FRA>TLV

iahphx

@Dan: If Trump ever takes any action to address the problem of market distortion caused by the billions in Middle East airline subsidies (and I have no idea if he will), it’s going to be by pulling their “Fifth Freedom” rights to carry passengers between the USA and Europe. These rights are unusual under normal circumstances, and are impossible to justify given the subsidies.
He’s not going to “punish” them with a laptop ban. Now it may be meaningless “security theatre” (I don’t know and you don’t know either), but it’s certainly not motivated by “protectionism.” That’s just crazy talk.

Kobe

If i was gifted with enough miles for a flight to Dubai on First Class i wouldn’t have any complaints 🙂 please feel free Dan and then ill let you know what i think of the ban

B

@iahphx
What continually surprises me about ME airline criticism is that when Arabs finally get it together and decide to invest and improve upon a field that the US and Europeans have long dominated. It’s as though they don’t belong in any industry without some backlash. What would you have them rather do?

So what that the gov’t of Arab countries have decided to subsidize their offerings. Did we forget that the airline industry has received a bail out of $15B in 2001.

I’d rather see excellent airlines offerings available to any and all Middle Eastern or not. Being salty about the fact that their offerings are subsidized reeks of prejudice.

Avi

Shower class emirates vs etihad? Service? Etc.

Reb yid

And even if it’s to protect our airlines, which you and the Arabs say it is, so what? They subsidize their companies to give them an advantage, why can’t we give our airlines an advantage?

iahphx

The “saltiness” from other airlines and countries towards the Middle East airlines is cumulative. Nobody would have cared that the shiekhs poured a few billion into developing their airline industry. What drives the rest of the industry nuts is that the billions in subsidies keep flowing in, and these airlines have become huge juggernauts of irrational international flying. It’s like a balloon that keeps inflating. Obviously this isn’t sustainable — EVERYONE eventually runs out of money, even Arab shiekhs — but the disruption being caused by these huge un-economic Middle East carriers is enormous. The USA airlines are largely insulated from the problem because geography makes Middle East connections impractical for most routes, but the USA airline are concerned that more Fifth Freedom flights could bring this problem to USA-Europe routes.

None of this is really relevant to the laptop ban, which may be dumb security theatre (we don’t know), but isn’t a response to the crazy subsidization of the Middle East airlines.

CM

Any clue into how it’s being enacted on Jordanian? We are planning to fly to Israel via Amman for Pesach and are concerned about our electronics.

Flying

Dan, can you post a direct link to the two screenshots from etihad about checking the devices in AUH. Thanks

Turkish Airlines

I just flew Turkish Airlines from Israel through Istanbul to the US. I had to check in my LG bluetooth headphones and iPhone qc35 headphones. What was really annoying was, that in Tel Aviv Airport, the Turkish Airlines staff told me that the headphones were okay. #gotrump

Dov

@Dan:
With the amount of electronic devices your travelling with I get why anyone would be frustrated with this ban

Austin

Totally agree with you Dan. This is a thinly veiled attempt of “Protectionism” by not-my-President Bannon/Trump. They r just giving some “red meat” to racist/xenophobic people who voted for them to keep some of the campaign propaganda. Intelligent people “sees” through these theatre/side-show/diversion from the real issue of incompetency/cronyism of this administration who is out to annihilate Middle/Lower class.

nnee

I usually do not comment unless something strikes me as disturbing.
I travel for work and have been to MLE, AUH DUB and Morocco several times- perhaps way before most of you were born however, to me any class of flying “shower class” or “sardine class” means nothing if one does not arrive safely at their destination.
Dan you are the man and you rate high with me and my entire family but you are missing the point here and I am disappointed in your comments relating to the new demands imposed upon certain routes and airlines.
With all of my respect, I don’t think you specialize in government security, work for el al or work for the Mossad. I don’t either. What I do understand is the “fear” of expensive items being stolen and the inconvenience of it all.
Yet think about it .. you would never have placed those items in your check in bag….WHY? because aside from the discomfort of not having your devices people steal , is that not correct?
Did it ever occur to you that even USA custom personnel residing in AUH can have connections with unsavory types?
There is plenty reason for all this and no, not everything is about airlines and points and food and comfort or even the usa airlines
Dan most of us here are Jews and no matter what class of service, award points or food ..those bans were placed on certain routes with good reason . I have heard plenty comments in those Emirate countries about “us” they actually feel that we should be flying in “cattle car” ” service especially when they see “the jewish baseball caps” understand?
Don’t be fooled by the warm hospitality and warm “showers” of those airlines nor of the beautiful destinations that they fly you to …. Read the Chumash and you will understand the hospitality factor
Just go with the flow and know that our government knows exactly why and what and not all of it is coming from Trump- perhaps it is those in the know?

Zahavah

@Dan:

I think the Administration reads this site.

Seems now, ALL international flights will not be able to carry electronics.

Maybe, just maybe, this really was about safety and not about business. Maybe, just maybe, the fact it took a few weeks to roll it out to all the carriers was to try and help the airlines and the passengers make an easier transition.

guest

US carriers lobbying at its best!

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