Monday, April 3, 2017

Weaponized Laptops

The US has imposed an electronics ban on nine carriers; Qatar Airways, Emirates Airways, Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir, Etihad Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines and Saudi Airlines from ten different airports around the world. The ban affects direct flights from eight countries in North Africa and the Middle East to the US. The "electronics ban" means passengers have to check in devices which are bigger than smartphones like tablets, cameras and of course laptops!

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer declared during his daily briefing two weeks ago that, terrorists are constantly trying to target commercial aviation especially US bound flights. UK has announced it will implement a similar electronics ban on certain flights. US intelligence agencies have evidence that some terrorist groups have successfully found ways to implant sophisticated explosive devices into laptops which can evade airport security. One such laptop bomb blew a hole in the body of a Somali Daallo Airlines passenger plane before it reached cruising speed in February but did not down the aircraft. The suspected bomber was blown out of the plane and two people aboard were injured. The plane successfully returned to the airport in Mogadishu.

The electronics ban which started on April 1st will hit Dubai hardest because it has the world's busiest airport. The big three Gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar have particularly tough times ahead. Emirates is scrambling to figure out the rules and ease the headache on travellers by letting them keep their electronic devices for the first leg of their US journey. Qatar Airways is going around the ban in its own way by offering loaner laptops for free to business class passengers at the boarding gate. As for economy class passengers, who won't receive loaner laptops, they might just start experiencing a resurgence of "reading a book on board a plane," again, if the in-flight entertainment is not great or absent, especially during long haul flights.