Airlines beat the ban by offering laptops for loan... but there's a catch
Airlines are coming up with creative ways to beat the US and UK laptop ban, but there's a catch.
You'll have to turn left when boarding to benefit.
Qatar Airways is offering to loan laptops for free to its business-class fliers, while Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways will be giving out iPads to premium passengers, in a bid to help those hit by the recent ban on carrying electronic gadget on flights from the Middle East.
Both airlines launch the free services this week on all affected US-bound flights. It has yet to be revealed how many laptops and iPads in total will be available for use on each flight, and whether passengers will need to reserve a device before boarding the plane.
As of April 5, Emirates is also offering first and business class passengers the opportunity to "borrow" Microsoft Surface tablets loaded with MS Office 2016 on board its US-bound flights. Passengers can bring USBs on board, and plug them into the devices.
A laptop and tablet handling service that allows all customers to keep their devices until just before they board is also available. Staff at boarding gates can pack and tag each device, storing it in the hold and returning it at their US destination.
Qatar Airways will also be offering a service whereby any electronic items prohibited by the new ban will be collected and securely packaged.
"These will be tagged, loaded as check-in baggage and returned safely to the customer on arrival to the US," the company states.
The move could ease fears about theft or damage to costly gadgets in transit, which in many cases will not be covered by travel insurance.
The Doha-based carrier will also be offering one hour of free Wi-Fi, and a discounted price of €4.70 ($5) for internet access for the duration of the flight to all passengers on their US services. The airline normally offers free Wi-Fi for the first 15 minutes and charges €4.70 ($5) for one hour, €9.40 ($10) for three hours and €18.75 ($20) per flight.
Etihad will also be offering vouchers for free on-board Wi-Fi, which is normally charged at €4.70 ($5) for 30 minutes.
While the US electronics ban includes flights from Qatar and Abu Dhabi, the UK's equivalent does not. "None of our flights to London Heathrow, Manchester or Edinburgh are affected by the laptop/tablet ban," a spokesperson for Etihad confirmed.
Will carriers affected by the UK restrictions follow suite?
We contacted several carriers, including British Airways, easyJet and Thomas Cook, but none could confirm whether free iPads or laptops were on the cards.
BA had no further comment regarding the latest restrictions.
“Our flights continue to operate as normal. We have contacted all affected customers to give them advice on the restrictions,” the airline said.
“This isn’t something we are offering at the moment. The majority of our flights to the areas which fall under the device ban are leisure and non-business,” a spokesperson for Thomas Cook said.
“EasyJet is allowing passengers to put their hand luggage in the hold free of charge. We provide containers if customers do not have appropriate bags to put their devices into,” said easyJet.
The UK ban prevents electronic devices larger than a smartphone from being carried on flights to the UK from six countries.
Anyone flying from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are now required to put their electronic devices in the hold, making them exempt from most travel insurance policies in the event of damage or theft.
Flights from these countries to the UK are operated by BA, easyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson.
The ban also affects those flying with foreign carriers including Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Atlas-Global, Egyptair, Tunisair, Royal Jordanian, Saudi and Middle East Airlines.
Those who have a stopover in one of the six countries on their way back to Britain will also be affected by the ban. Middle Eastern airports are sometimes used by holidaymakers returning from south-east Asia and Australasia.
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