And it’s all because of the new travel ban.
Considering the preponderance of business travelers flying regularly from the Middle East to the United States, it was only a matter of time before one of the major airlines affected by last week’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ban on carry-on electronics devised a workaround.
That airline, Emirates, expects to roll out a “laptop and tablet handling service” later this week.
The service mimics existing gate-check options, only for devices instead of items such as strollers. An article in USA Today indicated the service will be free for travelers to the United States from Dubai, where the international airport is among the 10 airports in eight countries included in the ban.
The new Emirates service will allow all passengers to use their laptops and tablets in the gate area up until the boarding process begins. At that point, Emirates agents will request travelers to declare and turn over their electronic devices to security staff agents at a secondary screening checkpoint near the gate.
An Emirates statement explains that from the gate-side checkpoint, “devices will be carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their [sic] U.S. destination.”
Travelers can then pick up their devices at the gate of their destination airport.
Curiously, the very same statement that explained how the new service will work also encouraged passengers to consider checking their electronic devices “in the first instance, to avoid delays.” The document also warned travelers that all carry-ons will be searched extensively at the new gate-side checkpoint, so it behooves people to declare any lingering electronics immediately.
Finally, the Emirates statement emphasized that cell phones are not included in the ban and noted that 90 percent of those travelers who access on-board mobile and Wi-Fi do so on their phones.
In fact, a witty social media campaign released the day the ban was announced makes light of the ban as an impetus to ditch the laptop and take advantage of all the content Emirates makes available over its on-board entertainment system.
According to the USA Today article, the carry-on electronics ban impacts about 50 flights a day from the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey to the United States. The TSA has said the ban is temporary but has declined to give information about how long the new rules will remain in place and how far the scope of the restrictions will reach.
Our advice: If you have to work on a flight home from Dubai, invest in a Bluetooth keyboard and sync it with your phone. No, it’s not optimal. But it’ll enable you to get the job done.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.