A Travel Ban on Notebook Computers Is Imminent

If you’re a business traveler, you’ll want to take note of an expected new ban on electronics on some international flights, because it will have a big effect on how you’ll do your work. It appears we’re days away from the banning of most electronics in the cabins on flights to the U.S. originating in 50 cities in Europe. That’s about 400 flights a day.

The ban will require you to check your computer in baggage, along will your iPads, eReaders, cameras, DVD players, and game devices. All electronics larger than a cellphone will be prohibited from being carried onboard.

The Department of Homeland Security is planning on extending this ban that now exists on flights from 10 countries in the Mideast and North Africa to the European Union because of concerns that terrorists have the capability to build bombs into laptops.

The ban is facing opposition from the airlines and tourist industry because of the impact it will have on people traveling internationally, particularly tourists visiting the U.S.  But there's no sign that Homeland Security will relent, in spite of the fact that more than 14.5 million travelers visit the U.S. from Europe each year -- 40% of all overseas visitors to America, according to research firm Euromonitor. Visitors from Europe spend between $3,000 to $4,000 per visit, according to the U.S. Travel Association, with visitors from Britain, Germany, and France alone spending $31 billion each year on tourism and airfares to the U.S.

And while this new law is intended to make us safer, it flies in the face of an existing regulation that prohibits lithium batteries from being checked in baggage, due to their propensity to suddenly ignite (think Samsung Note 7). In 2016 there were 33 incidents of devices catching fire in the cabin, including three laptops and two tablets. Now they’ll be in the cargo hold, where experts say fire suppression systems are not effective on these fires.

With travelers required to put their electronics in checked baggage, the danger is increased many times over, since a fire will be hard to detect and impossible to extinguish. Homeland Security has not explained this disparity, but apparently they deem this to be less of a danger than carrying your electronics on board.

Checking your computer in your baggage requires a leap of faith in mankind that it won’t be stolen or damaged, considering all the workers who will be handling and inspecting luggage and knowing that most of the luggage now contains valuable electronics.

While some travelers may just choose to leave their computers at home, that’s not practical for a business traveler who needs his notebook for his work each day during his trip.

Fortunately, the tech industry has a solution in waiting: Chromebooks. They offer an inexpensive substitute for your laptop and losing one would be less catastrophic.