Citing recent terrorist attacks in France, the UK, Sweden, and Russia, the US State Department today issued an alert asking Americans traveling to Europe to take extra precautions and increase their vigilance during their travels. The alert is to remain in place until September 1, 2017.
The alert itself cited no specific threat, but simply asks that Americans do their due diligence when traveling in countries that may carry extra risks to visitors.
The text, exactly as released by the State Department on May 1, 2017:
Earlier today, headlines started to pop up suggesting that the TSA was entertaining the idea of expanding the current Laptop ban to include the whole of Europe, including the UK. Mind you, this is a TSA that has a 95% failure rate when it comes to screening tests.
Currently the ban applies to certain carriers operating from certain Mid-Eastern countries, so news of the ban being expanding comes as a bit of a frustrating surprise.
Homeland Security officials in the USA have not commented on this other than the generic and predictable ‘We’re considering all options and have not made any decisions’ type of worthless commentary.
Any new policy or expansion of the existing version would mean that a device larger than a ‘Smart Phone’ would be considered too large to bring aboard, including any kind of laptop or tablet device.
Maybe at this point, major US and European carriers will speak up against the ridiculous policy and sway their respective governments. Now that the shoe may be put on the other foot, lets see how non-Mideast carriers will respond.
Predictably to this point, the non-M/E carriers have not spoken out against the current ban since the existing policy hurts their competitors. Let’s see what kind of whining we’ll get if everyone has to play by the same rules, regardless of how stupid and ineffective the rules would be.
The United Kingdom has following in the wake of the TSA and has announced that they too will ban certain electronic devices from being brought aboard certain flights operating to the UK from the Mid East.
The UK lists differs from the US version in that it includes airlines other than those based in the Mid East, and also covers countries that are not on the TSA’s list.
Specifically, the airlines impacted by the UK ban include:
Atlas Global, British Airways, Easy Jet, Jet2, Thomas Cook, Monarch, Turkish Airlines, Middle East Airlines (MEA), Egyptair, Saudia, Royal Jordanian, and Tunis Air.
The countries affected by the UK ban include direct flights from:
Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia.
According to various outlets, there appears to be a bit of an Intelligence Alert by various government agencies warning that there may be terror attacks planned that would involve the use of electronics brought aboard aircraft.
The ban prohibits any electronic device large than a smart phone, including iPads, large cameras, and laptops from being brought on board, forcing passengers to pack these items in their checked luggage.
In news coming out in drips this afternoon, the TSA announced that it was implementing a ban which would prevent certain electronics from being in the passenger cabin on flights originating from 8 Mid Eastern / North African countries, and specifically 10 airports within those countries (According to the AP). I’ve seen some outlets suggest that the list of countries may be as high as 13. The airlines that are affected are NOT American or European based carriers.
It appears the airlines being targeted for this ban are several Mideast and North African carriers including Royal Jordanian and Saudia. The airlines in question received confidential emails today from the TSA alerting them to the forthcoming policy change. Thus far, only Royal Jordanian and Saudia have come forward with any announcements (at least at the time that I published this post). It is thought that up to 12-15 airlines may be impacted by this ban.
The TSA has thus far been cryptic with who the 8 (or 13) countries are, or which specific airlines are affected by the ban. What is clear is that the TSA has mandated that this ban is in effect within 96 hours. This ban applies not only to the airlines serving the USA, but also to their passengers that may be transiting to the USA through connecting flights. For example, if a passenger on Saudia was flying from Riyadh to New York via Montreal, but on an Air Canada flight from ‘YUL’, they would have to check the banned devices on all carriers since their ultimate destination is the USA.
The ban specifically states that any electronic equipment larger than a Smart Phone would need to be packed with checked luggage and not brought into the cabin. From the sound of ban, it appears that larger cameras would be subject to the ban as well. The ban does not included medically necessary equipment such as oxygenators, etc.
A similar policy was in put in place temporarily in 2014 that required passengers to power up devices during security screenings to confirm that the electronics were functional. However this announcement takes it a step further, banning the larger devices from the cabin altogether.
The TSA announced that more information would be forthcoming shortly.
United announced a new ‘enhancement’ that takes it one step closer to turning Economy class into something akin to what a Low Cost Carrier would offer, or worse.
In their announcement, they are now going to restrict certain low-level Economy fare buckets to only allow one piece of carry-on luggage which has to fit under the seat in front of you. In addition, seats will not be assigned until check-in and it is even possible that passengers traveling together on the same itinerary will not even be able to choose seats next to one another. ‘United Friendly’ right?
Also, this new fare class will have to refund or rebooking options. If you don’t fly on that ticket, you’re out the amount that you spent. According to UA, these fares will also not be eligible for upgrades no matter what your elite level may be.
On top of all this, these ‘low class’ Economy fare buckets will not be eligible to earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM). How’s that for being ‘Friendly’? AND you’ll get to automatically board with Group 5, meaning you will be the last person on the plane. More insult to injury.
Why not just charge for water while you’re at it, United?
Is this next?
United suggests that this will add approximately $5 billion to their bottom line annually by 2020. I guess someone has to pay for the Polaris product that is coming next month. So let the back of the plane subsidize the front! 🙂
It’s an obvious cash grab since in my mind I have no doubt that the other Economy Fare classes will have substantial price increases to exploit the passengers wishing to avoid this enhancement. I can also see Advance Seat Reservation (ASR) fees going up. Instead of $19 for an ASR or upgrade to Premium Economy from GRR to ORD, maybe it moves to $50. Good times.
From a passenger point of view, I can only see this as a disaster. Especially once on board the aircraft.
For example, lets say 25% of the Economy cabin is booked in this new ‘Sheeple’ class, where passengers can only bring aboard one bag that HAS TO fit under the seat in front of them. This will theoretically create quite a bit of over head bin space. What’s to stop someone in this fare class from putting their bag into the overhead since it’s empty anyway? Are the flight attendants who already don’t care about passenger well-being going to police the cabin during the flight and use the passenger manifest to enforce whose bag goes up top, or whose goes under the seat? C’mon.
On the optimistic side of things, United has done a piss poor job in enforcing previous passenger enhancements. Remember when your bag had to fit into the sizer next to the gate? Yep, fail. In 2 years and dozens of flights, I still see Hockey Bags, Backpacks destined for Everest, and babies still board aircraft! 🙂
This may very well fall under the heading of all bark and no bite since getting their crew to enforce these measures will be the hardest part as far as policy enforcement is concerned.