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Airlines Work Around Electronics Ban by Offering Free WiFi

The new electronics ban, which started just this week, affects a large number of passengers in the U.S. going and coming from a majority of Middle Eastern countries. The ban prevents passengers from taking their laptops or tablets onto planes headed to the United States.

Yet Turkish and Gulf airlines are flaunting their availability of free WiFi along with the benefit of in-flight connectivity for smartphones, shadowing the beginning of the electronics ban.

The ban isn’t only dealing a blow to travelers who find that canceling flights that abide by the ban means paying large cancellation and flight redirecting fees, but many of the Gulf airlines are suffering as well. Those airlines rely on business-class flyers who are traveling through Dubai or other countries. Turkish Airlines was dealt a low blow since the ban affects the majority of its transit flyers.

Yet these airlines aren’t calling it quits. Turkish says it plans to make the use of 3G data roaming, internet connections, and free WiFi available to passengers. The free WiFi is expected to be accessible as soon as next month.

Since passengers aren’t allowed to take their laptops or tablets aboard the plane, Emirates told a source that it will be starting a new service that will allow travelers to use their devices up until time to board the plane. Once they are boarding, however, the airline will confiscate all laptops and tablets, packaging them away into boxes until the passengers reach their destination in the United States. Emirates will also give its passengers the option of using the limited free WiFi or pay $1 for 500MB.

Etihad, a Gulf carrier, suggested that it’s best passengers pack away their laptops in their check-in luggage. However, if they want to keep the devices out, Etihad would pack them away before boarding, a similar technique is used by Turkish Airlines as well.

It’s recommended that if passengers are to pack away their laptop into their carry-on luggage they need to make sure that the device is secure. Secure in the sense that they take the proper precautions to protect the device within the luggage. Suitcases and bags get tossed, packed, and mishandled a lot at airports, so it would be wise to invest in a cover for laptops, hard-shell suitcases, and even waterproof packaging.

There’s also the option of purchasing insurance. A few insurance companies offer good rates for replacing damaged devices. Allianz Global Assistance told a source that they cover devices up to $500. While that is a generous number it is still small in comparison to the prices that many laptops and tablets run at now. Other insurance companies such as World Nomad say they offer up to $1,500 worth of coverage for replacement of damaged or stolen electronic devices.

Although this new ban is going to cost quite a few passengers, the question of what do you do to pass the time on a flight if you don’t have your laptop does arise. Royal Jordanian posted on Twitter “12 things to do on a 12-hour flight with no laptop or tablet.” Among the list were things like “Appreciate the miracle of flight”, “Spend an hour deciding what to watch”, and “Think of reasons why you don’t have a laptop or tablet.”

While many airlines are coming up with passenger friendly ways to cope with the indefinite electronics ban, not all of them have come up with free WiFi or ways for passengers to use their laptops prior to flights. In fact, Qatar Airway didn’t comment on its plans for modifying the new ban. The airway did make a post on its Facebook page saying that the in-flight entertainment was the “only entertainment you’ll need on board.” Touché, Qatar.

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