Free WiFi as airlines cope with laptop ban

ISTANBUL/DUBAI • Turkish and Gulf carriers are touting free WiFi and better in-flight connectivity for smartphones as they scramble to mitigate the impact of a cabin ban on laptops in planes bound for the United States.

The ban could deal a blow to fast-growing Gulf carriers, which count on business-class flyers stopping over in Dubai or Doha en route to far-flung destinations, and to Turkish Airlines, with its high volume of transit passengers.

A Turkish Airlines official said it was working to roll out a system that would let passengers use 3G data roaming on mobile phones to connect to the Internet in-flight, and it hoped to make WiFi freely available on some aircraft from next month.

"We've sped up infrastructure work after the latest developments... If the work is complete, we're planning on switching to free WiFi services on our Boeing 777 and Airbus 330 aircraft in April," the official told Reuters.

Emirates on Thursday said it was introducing a "laptop and tablet handling service" for US-bound flights that would allow passengers to use their devices until just before they board. The devices would be "carefully packed into boxes" and returned on arrival in the US.

Emirates passengers can access limited free WiFi, or pay US$1 (S$1.40) for 500MB.

Fellow Gulf carrier Etihad encouraged passengers to pack their electronics in check-in luggage, but would also allow devices to be handed over at boarding, according to a spokesman. Turkish Airlines said it had introduced a similar measure.

Royal Jordanian took a tongue-in-cheek approach, listing on Twitter "12 things to do on a 12-hour flight with no laptop or tablet", including reading, meditating, saying hello to your neighbour, or "reclaiming territory on your armrest".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Free WiFi as airlines cope with laptop ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe