The UK’s controversial “laptop ban” has taken effect, outlawing the use of most electronic devices on flights from certain countries. The move, which follows a similar law in the USA, affects six British airlines and applies to flights coming into UK airports from six countries.
The ban came into force very quickly, having been first announced just last week by Theresa May. The Prime Minister announced the move following a meeting with the Department for Transport, just a few days after Donald Trump’s US government announced a similar move. In both countries, the reason given for the restrictions is that larger electronics can be used to store explosives and therefore could potentially be used in a terrorist attack. It was suspected that a laptop may have been used to carry explosives in one unsuccessful terror attack last year. The use of computers and tablets for cyber-attacks has also been mentioned as a possible concern.
Flights originating in five countries from the Middle East and North Africa will fall under the ban, as well as flights from Turkey. On these flights, small electronic devices such as smartphones will still be allowed but larger devices such as laptops and tablets will be prohibited, and even some of the larger models of smartphone will faul foul of the ban. Specifically, electronic devices that passengers wish to use or carry in hand luggage on these flights will be subject to a maximum size of 16cm long, 9.3cm wide, and 1.5cm deep. Any larger devices will have to be stored in the hold for the duration of the flight.
These restrictions will apply to flights operated by six UK airlines. British Airways, EasyJet, Monarch, Jet2, Thomas Cook, and Thomson will now be required to implement the ban on applicable flights. The restrictions apply to flights into the UK from Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Jordan.
By targeting flights from six countries, the UK ban is less wide-ranging than its US counterpart which affects eight countries. Countries that appear on both the UK and US lists are Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The US ban also prohibits larger electronic devices on flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, Qatar, and Kuwait.
Both the US and UK versions of the “Laptop ban” have been met with criticism. As well as public backlash suggesting that the move is paranoid or an overreaction, the moves have also come in for criticism from experts. Technology specialists have pointed out that the danger level for explosives still exists in checked baggage, and that smartphones which avoid the ban can have the same hacking capabilities as the larger, prohibited devices.