Why I Don’t Care About the Proposed Laptop Ban


by Robert McGarvey


My first reaction – possibly yours too – to the talk that Homeland Security is about to ban most electronics in flights from Europe to the US was horror. How dare they!

But as the possibility sorts out in my mind, my indifference rises.  Part of me actually thinks this may be to the good.

For our safety, maybe also our relaxation.

Keep in mind, too, that the present ban involves 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa.  The scope of the new ban – if it is enacted – seems limited to Europe. All? Just some airports? We don’t know.

The idea may in fact now be “off the table” according to the latest reporting.  If so – and if the security intel supports it – that’s fine by me.

If it still comes down though – and in a Trump universe predictability is not the norm – that too is okay by me.

Here’s the deal: the vast bulk of my personal travel for business is domestic.  The last time I took an overseas business trip was maybe five years ago.

Of course it’s selfish to say I am not impacted, so why should I care?  But there is more to my thinking.

For some years, there’s been a requirement – admittedly not often enforced – that any electronic device carried by a passenger has to be able to power on.  TSA can ask to see the device light up.  I have never been asked but I did stop bringing one elderly laptop that ran fine with a cord but the battery had passed on some time before.  It just didn’t seem worth the expense to buy a new battery so I forgot about it – until the power on requirement kicked in.

The logic behind the requirement is compelling. There’s a lot of space in the battery compartment. If there’s no battery in place that space could be put to nefarious purposes.  No argument with that thinking.

And so I supported the power on requirement and now I see why it just might make good sense to ban laptops – possibly also other bigger electronics- because we apparently don’t believe many airports have the technology and systems in place to ensure that there are no hidden explosives.

I put safety of all passengers ahead of my personal entertainment convenience.

Besides, a cellphone can entertain and inform me plenty.

Shouldn’t passengers be required to power off and on a cellphone before carrying it on? Probably.

Now, as for my dismay, my initial worry was: what will I do to fill eight to twelve hours on a European flight? And then I remembered I had done quite a few trips in the pre electronics era and had no difficulty filling time.

Just bring a book, maybe some newspapers and magazines.

Also, on phablet type cellphones – I own a Nexus 6 for instance – reading Kindle books is not uncomfortable.  I have in fact done it on quite a few flights already.

I also can handle email on the Nexus 6. No, I won’t write lengthy email but I rarely write long email anyway and at least I can still use flight time to work through (erase) a backlog.

I won’t watch movies on it, or do much web surfing, but I generally don’t do that inflight when I bring a laptop or iPad.  So no big loss to me.

I just might end up being more relaxed – working less – on long flights if I travel without a laptop in hand.

When I do the assessment I see this: there are possible risks involved in allowing electronics on board.  And if most types are banned, I can still fill my time usefully and enjoyably.

Would I be so sanguine if phones too are banned?

Initially I’d howl – but, honestly, this just takes u back to air travel circa 1980.  And in many ways it was considerably more pleasant in that era. I’ll grant that the absence of electronics had nothing to do with the higher quality of the travel.

But it was more fun to fly in 1980 and I had no gear with me.

If need be, we can go back to that era. And I personally will fly comfortably.

How about you?

FWIW, in a recent poll, four of five UK travelers said a laptop ban would not impact their willingness to fly to the US.


And reports have surfaced that Australia, too, is mulling a laptop ban.

4 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Care About the Proposed Laptop Ban”

  1. I see how how they handle checked bags and the fact that they steal stuff is my issue. I can do the flight without a laptop. However, dealing with a broken or stolen computer / ipad / wife’s macbook/ipad etc. is a big risk. Usually, when I hand something over to some entity, I expect them to take the responsibility of making sure it isn’t damaged and to get it back to me. If the airlines/TSA can be held 100% responsible for the cost of replacement, that would help. However, I don’t think that moving the electronics into the hold is the answer. I have not seen any convincing information about this, and it just creates a bunch of new issues.

    1. Agreed. That’s why, for maybe 5 years, I have traveled with a cheap Chromebook. There’s no data on it and it costs so little. I have never had to check it but I would be okay with that because it’s so easy to replace.

      1. Chromebooks can’t do everything although admittedly they an do a lot. Fortunately, we are not having laptop bans. It was a stupid idea. Scanning things and checking them out is a much better idea.

  2. It all seems easy…except, I need a serious laptop, and my serious camera equipment, to be able to work at my destination. If it/they are lost, stolen or broken in-flight, replacement is $10,000 at a minimum to be able to do the job that is the reason for me being on the plane at all. I rarely use any of my essential equipment in the plane, but I do need to be able to take care of it en route and have it ready and working when I hit the ground.
    In the hold would be a very worrisome, and unwelcome, situation. It would, in fact, mean flying routes from Canada or Mexico to avoid the ban. I’d rather not do that, but…

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