Laptop Liability Inflight!

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As you probably know, the Trump administration is considering banning laptops from the passenger cabins of all international flights to and from the US, and homeland security secretary John Kelly was quoted as saying when asked if he was going to ban all laptops on all flights to and from the US: “I might,” he said. The existing ban set in place earlier this year affects some 50 flights per day from 10 cities, mostly Middle Eastern, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey.  Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security introduced a restriction on personal electronic devices in March, mandating anything larger than cellphones or smartphones be sent via the traveller’s baggage – so no tablets either. Clearly this does not affect airline provided tablets for IFEC, as Emirates is loaning tablets to passengers in upper classes, obviously keeping the the folks in front happy as their laptops/tablets ride in their suitcases down below.

Currently, several news outlets report that the U.S. is considering extending the ban to other locations, including Europe. Ostensibly, airlines and countries worldwide could do the same. In fact, IFExpress has heard that Australia is presently considering a ban as well. The folks at Digital Trans noted: “Kelly added that Homeland Security planned to “raise the bar for – aviation security much higher than it is now,” and spoke of “new technologies down the road,” though declined to offer any details.” Furthermore, among the enhanced security measures that will be forthcoming will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags so we all will probably be affected – laptop or not. Hey, this ban could end up way bigger than anyone imagined.

However, not everyone is sold on the restrictions and this was noted recently in Aviation Week – “In a statement May 23, AAPA (Association of Asia Pacific Airlines) director general Andrew Herdman said, “The ripple effects of such measures, and their proposed wider expansion, threaten to disrupt the global economy and impose far greater costs on society with no tangible public security benefits. This would only serve to further the aims of the terrorists, who measure their success by how much society over-reacts to their provocations. Rather than focus on generalized screening of innocent passengers, past experience with evolving threats and terrorist plots repeatedly highlight the critical importance of effective intelligence gathering and analysis.” Screening may be fine, but still one bad device could cause a lot of cabin damage –  and all it takes is one.

Many say that the ban expansion will force a lot of passengers to send their laptop and tablets to their destination via luggage in the hold, or just leave them at home. IFExpress sees several potential issues with this scenario. Firstly,  large quantities of laptop batteries in the aircraft hold could potentially increase the risk of combustibility, which we all know has been an issue – and not just for laptops (think back to last year with the Galaxy 7)! After all, Lithium batteries can fail. But even beyond that some travelers have told us that they won’t ship laptops in luggage because of  the potential for theft – especially in some parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, and other locations. Additionally, if you do carry your laptop in your baggage, you might want to also carry a copy of the PC sales receipt with you as well, because if the bag is “lost”, you need proof of it’s value to get repaid – be sure to check out the rest of the article as it is pretty good as well!

However, not everybody agrees that laptops are the big bad device onboard and a SpaceNews article about inflight connectivity reported: “Right now a laptop is the least-used device in the broadband networks that we are supporting,” Ric VanderMeulen, vice president of space and satellite broadband for ViaSat’s Government Systems Division, said during a Washington Space Business Roundtable panel. “Phones are first, tablets are second, and laptops are about seven percent of the market.”

No doubt, a laptop ban could be a boon to aircraft IFE, but no personal devices, with the exception of smartphones, could potentially benefit the IFEC industry more. In fact, such a scenario would most likely require airlines to select some form of IFEC, especially on long flights. Thales notes in ATW: “The future of IFE will involve seatback monitors that interface with passengers, customize content and generate ancillary revenue,” according to Thales executives at the company’s new IFE final integration and test facility in Irvine, California, May 22. “If you look at the system right now, it’s super static, from top to bottom,” Thales InFlyt Experience CEO Dominique Giannoni said. “How do we move from an in-seat system—where an airline is looking at cost-line—to an in-seat solution coupled with connectivity that moves to a revenue line? We believe it is an untapped area and opportunity for revenue.” Thales InFlyt Experience CTO Fred Schreiner said, “We are going to go into a period where it’s really about engagement – the paradigm has completely shifted – your ability to access the internet, to catch up on social networks, is changing the game.” Yes, and it might also be promoting more laptop usage, however, whether flying folks are willing to trust their secure personal and business email and work on an airline supplied screen, remains unclear.”

But, IFExpress had some questions too:

 

  • If the issue is battery size, what size limit is there or is the issue resolved with no laptops?
  • Will this new security change be a boon to smartphone usage inflight? And if so, portable keyboards (with Apple and Android phones) will be seen a lot more?
  • Or for another solution – can you imagine the cost and hassle of a secure, lockable cabin laptop storage enclosure? And the ensuing mess of storing and retrieving your laptop before and after a flight? Bad idea – rule that one out!

 

 

 

So in the future if this security increase passes and you want to “laptop work” onboard, you might want to consider a good smartphone (perhaps one with the biggest screen possible) and at least 128 Gb of memory, a secure device for storing your data, and a portable keyboard, and a mouse (if that works on a phone). You may want to figure a way to support it while watching some form of entertainment – not to mention power. You will need power either from the plane or brought with you on a “brick”- and that brings up another issue, what size Lithium Ion power device will be allowed? Is this getting crazy, or what? However, with the size of some PC’s getting smaller (credit card size), could this be a possible carry-on computing solution when combined with a small keyboard, portable Li-ion cube and a small screen on an iPod or a phone? Check this out because they are getting smaller as well.

Additionally, here are 10 tips for mobile security that will help keep all that portable stuff safe while you do travel, big laptop or not.

And lastly, since we are on the subject, here is another good link on the potential laptop ban line as well.


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