Emirates has introduced a laptop and tablet handling service for its flights to the US, in the light of the new restrictions imposed by the TSA this week.
US-bound passengers transiting in Dubai will be able to use their devices on the first part of their journey, and at Dubai International, before handing them over at the gate, where they will be “carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination”.
Theoretically this free service is also available to US-bound customers starting their journey in Dubai, although the carrier said that these passengers “are encouraged to pack their electronic devices into their check-in luggage in the first instance, to avoid delays”.
The new restrictions come into force on March 25, and Emirates said that it would deploy extra staff at the airport “to ease and assist passengers, especially in the first days of the new rules being implemented”.
The airline stressed that there will be detailed searches of all hand baggage on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai, and that passengers “should therefore declare their devices before the search, or ensure their electronic devices are packed into their check-in luggage in the first instance”.
Note that the ban does not apply to Emirates’ US-bound flights via Milan or Athens.
Passengers will continue to be able to take smartphones on board, and the carrier said that historical data shows that 90 per cent of its passengers connecting to wifi and mobile connectivity on US flights already do so using these type of devices, with only six per cent connecting via laptops and four per cent via tablets.
Emirates’ president Sir Tim Clark conceded that these figures do not account for devices being used offline, but said that “perhaps the silver lining to this is that they can now justifiably give themselves a break from their devices, enjoy our onboard service and catch up on the latest movies, music, and TV box sets that we have on offer”.
Whether the above is enough to allow passengers who would otherwise be banned by their employers from placing work devices in the hold remains to be seen. A forum string on the subject can be seen here.
More information on the service can be found at emirates.com/electronicsban