Emirates offers laptop 'handlers' to cope with US ban

A passenger buying a ticket at a Emirates Airline counter in Los Angeles, California, on March 21, 2017.
A passenger buying a ticket at a Emirates Airline counter in Los Angeles, California, on March 21, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI (Bloomberg, AFP) - Emirates airline will let passengers take their laptops past security gates at Dubai International Airport and collect the devices only before they board US-bound flights as the world's largest international carrier seeks to minimise the impact of an electronics ban.

Devices affected by the ban will be allowed within the airport's security perimeter so that passengers can use their laptops and tablets until the last possible moment, the state-owned carrier said in a statement.

As all hand baggage will be subject to a "detailed search" at the gate, customers will need to present the items there to be packed in boxes and carried in the plane's cargo hold during the flight. The service is free of charge, it said.

Additional staff will be deployed to prevent disruptions, especially in the first few days of implementing the new rules, which come into effect on March 25.

The US ban, announced on Tuesday, prevents travellers on non-stop flights from 10 Middle Eastern airports from bringing large electronics into the aircraft cabin.

 
 

The ban applies to flights from 10 airports in the region, including direct flights to the United States from Dubai International Airport and Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. US airlines do not operate direct flights out of the airports included in the ban.

A similar British ban covers all airports in Turkey, Jordan and four other countries, but not the United Arab Emirates.

Both countries have cited credible threats to civil aviation from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group as the reason for the ban, which has come under criticism for targeting majority-Muslim countries.

"Perhaps the silver lining to this is that they can now justifiably give themselves a break from their devices," Emirates President Tim Clark said in the statement.

Emirates stands to be one of the hardest hit by the new security rules, as well-paying business customers will probably seek alternatives to avoid costly downtime during flights.

Airlines operating out of European hubs could gain with the promise of "making better use of business travellers' time", Jamie Baker, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co, said in a note, adding that the electronics ban has "the potential to alter global traffic flows".

Only about 6 per cent of passengers who use online links aboard Emirates' US flights connect with their laptops and 4 per cent operate tablets, with the remaining 90 per cent gaining access through smartphones, Emirates' Clark said.

The prohibition applies only to the carrier's nonstop US services and not flights that stop in Milan or Athens on the way, Emirates said.