Mar 21, 2017

The issues created by banning laptops from airplane cabins

Royal Jordanian

A ban preventing passengers from certain countries carrying large electronics on their flight creates several new risks even as it potentially addresses a terrorism one.

Why it matters: Passengers who can't carry on laptops and other electronics must now place those items in checked luggage. The FAA and other agencies have spent the last several years trying to reduce the amount of lithium-ion batteries in the cargo hold for fear that a short circuit in an unattended battery could cause a massive fire. At least if a battery ignites in the main cabin, there is a good chance of putting out the fire before it brings down a plane.

While the fire risk is probably the biggest concern, here are a few others being raised in the wake of the new rules:

Theft: Historically airlines have encouraged passengers to keep their valuable electronics close to them, in part to reduce the chance of them being stolen. Typically luggage isn't insured enough to cover expensive gear if it is lost or stolen.

Another Muslim ban: The countries targeted are majority-Muslim so this appears to be another set of rules aimed at one group of people vs. addressing specific behaviors. If laptops are so dangerous, some say they should be banned for all.

Dreaded screaming toddler: If you take away a kid's iPad, that long international flight is going to be longer for them and everyone around them. Will a smartphone be enough?

Counterpoint: This Wired piece argues that a specific threat, if there is one, could justify the other risks.

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