It’s nice to see reason prevail sometimes.
In March, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a ban on personal electronics larger than a cell phone being carried in the passenger cabin on flights originating from nine Middle Eastern cities (only flights to the US and not coming from it were affected). This policy made absolutely zero sense: the DHS stated that the ban was based on intelligence that unnamed terrorist organizations were planning to weaponize laptops and other electronic devices. The flaws of the ban were immediately obvious: if a bomb placed in a laptop exploded in the cargo hold, the effect would be no different from if it had exploded in the cabin (in fact, all the deadliest bombings of airliners have resulted from bombs in the cargo hold). As recently as a month and a half ago, it seemed like the electronics band was destined to be expanded onto more flights, with reports stating that the DHS was very close to expanding the ban onto flights to and from Europe. Clearly, logic is no object.
However, the tide seemed to gradually be turning against the electronics ban. The expanded ban was called off, while the Middle Eastern ban still remained in place. I’d like to think that the DHS was coming to their senses and realizing that this really didn’t make sense, but perhaps I’m placing too much faith in the ability of our nation’s national security apparatus to, you know, reason.
Last week, the DHS rolled out a new set of security measures to be implemented at foreign airports. While the actual changes are obscured by the sort of jargony meaninglessness the DHS is so good at (what the hell does “enhanced overall passenger screening” mean, specifically?), the one obvious effect of these new measures was an end to the electronics ban (to be replaced by enhanced screening for personal electronic devices). This was simply great news, as it appeared that the DHS was actually doing something reasonable instead of just adding another nonsensical, burdensome security measure that only complicates the travel process.
Airlines gradually began lifting the ban on their flight (having received DHS permission). First came Etihad, who announced the ban was no longer in effect as of July 2, who was quickly followed by Turkish 2 days later. Yesterday, Emirates lifted the ban on their flights, and Qatar announced today that passengers could again carry personal electronics into their cabins on flights to the US. The ban is still in place onboard flights operated by Kuwait Airways, Egyptair, Royal Air Maroc, Saudia, and Royal Jordanian, though hopefully the these airlines will get the ban lifted from their flights as soon as possible.
Don’t rest in peace, Electronics Ban. We hardly knew ye, and boy am I glad of it.