Much as been said in the past few days about the new reveal electronic ban that the UK and US have put into effect.
Since its reveal on March 20th, 2017, many have spoken for and mostly against the new regulations. It even has a trending Twitter hashtag at #electronicban!
For the few people who have still not heard about the ban, here are the highlights and how it will affect traveling with autism.
What is the electronic ban?
The US and UK have put in place regulations preventing passengers from using electronic devices on flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries when flying into the UK and US. Though the concept is similar, the countries and airlines on each country’s list are somewhat different.
The UK list
Direct Flights on the following carriers from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia do not allow passengers to carry electronic devices in the cabin:
- British Airways
- Thomas Cook
- Turkish Airlines
- Pegasus Airways
- Atlas-Global Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
- Royal Jordanian
- Tunis Air
The US list
Direct flights from airlines on the list below from the Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia don’t allow travelers to have electronic devices in the cabin:
- Egypt Air
- Emirates Airline
- Etihad Airways
- Kuwait Airways
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
The US list also specifically named ten airports the ban applied to:
- Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
- Cairo International Airport (CAI)
- Ataturk International Airport (IST)
- King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
- King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
- Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
- Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
- Hamad International Airport (DOH)
- Dubai International Airport (DXB)
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
Does this affect any US domestic flights?
No! Flights within the US or originating in the US will not be affected at present.
Why was the electronic ban put in place?
Though no specific threat was quoted, the ban has been put in place due to gathered intelligence of imminent terrorist threats to blow up commercial jets using nonmetal explosives that may be difficult to detect by regular airport scanning.
In the past, there have been several attempts like this, the last one being just last year when a bomb hidden in a laptop detonated aboard a flight out of Somalia.
When is it going into effect?
In the UK, several airline companies are already implementing the new ban. In the US, it is about to start on March 25th. 2017.
What does the electronic ban mean to travelers?
Under the new regulations, only small smartphones will be allowed in the cabin. Other devices will have to travel in the checked luggage, including:
- Kindle readers
- E -readers
- Portable DVDs
- Travel printers
- Travel scanners
Medical devices will still be allowed after security.
How long will this ban be in effect?
Hard to tell!
We were on a cruise in Europe back in 2006 when we were notified that we couldn’t carry anything but medicines and passports in our carry on luggage. Apparently, a plot to blow up an aircraft had just been foiled, and the alert levels were raised to the highest level. Soon after that the 100ml liquid restriction came into effect and never went away.
How will the ban affect passengers with autism?
Sadly, that will be a problem not only for families trying to entertain their kids during long haul flights but for those who are nonverbal and use an iPad to communicate. We all still remember the case of Carly Fleischmann back in 2012, who was told to turn off her iPad despite repeated pleas from her and her parents not to take her means of communication away.
Considering this ban came into effect suddenly it is clear that legislatures didn’t think of all possible ramifications and challenges. Hopefully, in time, nonverbal passengers with autism will be allowed to take their iPads onboard with an appropriate doctor’s note.
Helpful tips for traveling with autism
Try to reroute your flight
If you are slotted to fly out of one of the airports on the list you may want to reroute your trip to a different country and fly out of there a few days later. Alternatively look into flying with a more kid friendly airline like Etihad and Emirates that offers nanny service onboard to help entertain the kids.
Book a night flight
If possible try to book a night flight and make sure you tire out the kids with some physical activity before getting to the airport. This way they might sleep a few hours and wouldn’t need entertainment.
Prepare your kid!
Prepare your child for the fact that they will need to do other activities than play on their electronics when flying. Make sure you emphasize the positive on how exciting it is to fly rather than detail why electronics aren’t allowed which they may find scary!
Head on to the dollar store
Depending on your kids’ interests fill a bag with reading or coloring materials, Legos, board games, costumes or any other items that can occupy them for several hours.
Notify the airline
Call the special needs desk and let them know about the importance of seating and entertainment for your kid. If you are traveling as a family, you may want to book aisle seats in rows across from each other in case the entertainment system fails in an entire row.
Bring autism-friendly items
Pack a set of kid-friendly headphones and a power cord to juice up your smartphone during the flight. Most aircraft have USB ports under the seat.
Allow ample time at the airport
Traveling after March 25th from the tagged airports to the UK or US? Pre-pack your devices in the checked luggage in protective bubble wrap and get to the airport as early as possible since chances are there will be queues, confusion and even chaos and some instances. Considering this was just sprung on the travel industry it’s hard to gauge what exactly could transpire.
So what should you do?
At this point, I would advise everyone to leave any devices they don’t need at home to prevent theft or hacking.
You may want to purchase an inexpensive throwaway laptop or tablet to use for traveling that you won’t regret losing. Alternatively look into renting an iPad for your kid in the destination you are going to –some hotels do it free of charge.
Additional ways to protect your devices
- Check with your credit cards and home insurance for electronic item coverage in case of theft or damage. Many times you may be able to recover the cost of your lost/stolen/broken device through their programs.
- To prevent identity theft, back all your information and data the day before your flight and store it on a cloud or memory stick. In addition, you can store any personal information in password zip files or delete info from your device (I know – quite the hassle, but still better than becoming a hacking victim).
- Make sure to fully turn off all devices and apply a passcode to prevent hackers from accessing your data.
- Carve your name or at least initials on each device to make it easily identifiable.
- Some hackers can trace particular devices via GPS tracking. Therefore, make sure to register all devices under an appropriate app like ‘find my phone.’We’ve found that the Tile system helps us keep track of our electronics.
Will you be flying out of the airports on the electronic ban list with your family? How are you planning to entertain your kids?