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May 12

Umm, About That Laptop Ban From Europe…

Last month, somebody broke into my blogging account and wrote that the United States would never expand the laptop ban to Europe. Sad!

All Kidding Aside…

laptop ban

You may not be able to do that on the plane anymore                  Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Discussion of banning laptops on flights from Europe into the United States (which European countries would almost certain implement on flights to the US) has accelerated over the past few days, with the possibility that something will come into as early as effect this weekend. And truthfully, I still think a full-on laptop ban is unlikely. The consequences are simply too catastrophic to anything with ties to the travel industry. Having said that, it looks like something is coming, and airport security is about to get more burdensome.

What Are The Alternatives to a Laptop Ban from Europe?

In the link in the first paragraph, I discussed why I think a laptop ban in airplane cabins is unlikely and would seriously harm the economy. So now, let’s look at the potential regulations that could go into effect, regardless of their impact. The most benign alternative, at least in terms of passenger impact, would be no changes to the current regulations. We seem to be beyond the point where that’s a possibility; too much has been made of the potential threat to say, “Oops, my bad.” So what else could happen?

  • Every Device Gets Checked: I think that this is the most likely scenario. You’ll have to turn on your laptop/iPad and let somebody check it to verify that it is, in fact, a laptop. The impact would be minor, outside of the annoyance factor and the longer lines. Oh, and the one-way ticket to Gitmo (without your laptop) if your computer fails to boot up when you turn it on.
  • Laptop Bad, iPad Good: Here’s where the trouble starts. The next most likely scenario is that laptops are banned from the cabin but iPads are allowed. You’ll still lose business travelers, though, as well as leisure passengers who care about their electronics. You’ll recover, though, those passengers who don’t want to be stuck with their kids and nothing to do for eight hours. Maybe the airlines will start handing out decks of cards again?
  • Everything Banned, Airlines Buy A Bunch Of iPads for Customers: Again, it’s a plus for the entertainment factor. Everything else is a negative.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding The Laptop Ban

Laptop ban

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Okay, there aren’t really any FAQs at this point, but here are a couple of thoughts that occurred to me:

  • Why would business travelers be so upset? Big deal, you can’t work for a few hours. Get some sleep: True, most business travelers can do what they need to do ahead of time. But not all. Some have last minute presentations. Some need to stay connected to email. Some are just lazy. But there’s another reason: Most large corporations won’t let employees check laptops in baggage. The concerns regarding theft or damage are simply too great.
  • What about “loaner laptops?”: That’s an idea. You can carry your laptop in the cabin but can’t turn it on. Instead, you get a loaner laptop at the airport and use a flash drive. Again, though, we run into security issues. Without being able to scan the computers for spyware or viruses, most employers won’t allow their employees to do work on an untested laptop.
  • Why do you care so much about business travelers? Because that’s where all the money is made. The seats up front are the entire source of profit for airlines.
  • What about traveling to the US through Canada or Mexico? I believe that if the US implemented this policy, it would ask Canada and Mexico to do the same. Otherwise, any passenger that had originated abroad and connected there would likely be checked. But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all a moot point. Presumably, the terrorists’ intent is to destroy an aircraft, not sneak a laptop bomb in to the US.
  • Why does this policy only apply to airlines? What about Amtrak? Or large conference centers? Or carrying a laptop in (insert city name)? Wouldn’t those targets be easier and cause potentially more damage? Not a clue. Security theater is my guess. It’s the same reason that speed limits aren’t set at 25 MPH everywhere. It would minimize the risk of dying in an auto accident, but it would be such an imposition on people’s lifestyles that it would be impossible to maintain.
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