How to deal if the electronics travel ban is expanded to Europe

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is meeting with airlines on Thursday to discuss expanding the current ban on carry-on electronics to include US-bound flights from Europe.

There are nearly 350 flights from Europe to the US every day, bringing 14.5 million travelers from Europe each year. According to a report from CBS News, major airports like London’s Heathrow would be impacted. A decision on the ban could come by the end of the week.

A checkpoint at Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport in Morocco, one of the airports affected by the electronics ban. (AP)

“No final decisions made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however, it is under consideration,” David Lapan, DHS spokesperson, tweeted.

The current ban affects flights from 10 airports in Africa and the Middle East, including major hubs like Hamad International Airport (DOH), Dubai International Airport (DXB), and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). Customers traveling to the US from one of these airports are restricted from carrying on any electronic device larger than a cellphone, including laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, electronic game units larger than a smartphone, and travel printers/scanners.

The first ban was enacted in March, after intelligence showed that the Islamic State potentially developed an explosive device that could be hidden in common electronics. By expanding the airport’s affected, the DHS is attempting to reduce the risk of an explosive device making its way onto an aircraft bound for the United States.  

Impact on travelers

For leisure travelers, the expanded ban means that parents won’t be able to load up their child’s iPad with games and movies before a long flight. It also means you won’t be able to travel with your DSLR camera, which probably holds the precious vacation photos you just snapped.

On the site Flyertalk, a forum for travelers, the proposed expansion of the electronics ban is a hot topic, with commenters voicing both support and concern, particularly about how their devices would fare if they were forced to check them along with their luggage.

“Which student is going to risk his most precious tool, his laptop, to be damaged in storage in the cargo hold?” asked one user.

Another commenter echoed those sentiments: “So how is Delta going to protect my iPad and digital camera? Especially since electronics in checked luggage aren’t covered if they are lost/stolen? I’m really pissed off about this!”

Others weren’t thrilled about the expansion, but didn’t want to risk the safety of travelers just because the decision would be inconvenient.

“With all the logistical nightmares and effects this will bring, flyers and airlines will have to adapt. Some concessions will be made here and there, and the system will change,” said a commenter with the handle MfromL.

Business travelers will likely suffer the biggest headache with an expanded electronics ban. Many business travelers use their laptops to work on long flights, and banning them would almost certainly reduce productivity – and likely anger employees and their managers. There is also the issue of security. Corporate laptops often hold private business and financial data that companies don’t want to risk getting lost or stolen from a checked bag.

While the Global Business Travelers Association (GBTA) supports the TSA’s efforts to secure the airways, they also believe that new screening measures could be more effective than banning electronics all together.

“We encourage DHS to continue to expand and enhance trusted traveler programs and expand preflight detection efforts to ensure that resources can be effectively allocated to detecting threats to homeland security,” said GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick.

One option might be to increase the use of Explosive Trace Detection, which is often used at airport security checkpoints. With this screening method, a sample swab is taken from a person’s electronic device, and then is tested in an instrument that can detect dangerous substances.

What travelers can do to prepare

Plan ahead

Before you leave for a trip, look at your entire itinerary. You might not be departing from one of the flagged airports, but you could possibly have a connection at an airport where your bag will be screened for one of the banned electronics. In this instance, it will be too late to put it in your checked bag, and you might have to leave it behind. Instead, look at your itinerary ahead of time, so you can avoid a headache down the line.

Consider protection

Many credit cards will reimburse you if your luggage is lost or stolen. In fact, some premium cards (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum) will insure you up to $3,000 per trip. Note that in many cases the entire flight has to be booked on the card in order to get the reimbursement. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of all of the electronics you place in your checked bag, so you have proof if a claim has to be filed later.

You can also look into insurance. Homeowners insurance will cover lost possessions while traveling, but many plans exclude high-dollar items like jewelry and computers. Before you travel, look at your plan to double check.

It’s also an option to purchase separate travel insurance to protect your belongings. Travelex has plans that will cover lost baggage from $500 up to $2,500.

Back up your stuff

Back up the documents, photos and videos on your laptop before you travel. Put them on a hard drive or upload them to the cloud. This way, you won’t have to start over from scratch if your laptop is damaged or lost in transit.

Carry your memory

You’ll have to check your SLR or DSLR cameras, which could be nerve wracking if you just snapped 500 photos on a dream safari vacation. Give yourself some peace of mind, and remove the memory card before you check your camera. Place it securely in your carry-on bag, so you’ll at least have your priceless photos in the event your camera is lost or stolen.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. 

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