In-Cabin Laptop Ban to and from Europe Seems to be Coming

From the terrorists-have-won department:  Apparently, the current in-cabin ban on laptops and tablets the applies to flights originating in certain Middle Eastern countries will soon be extended to flights from Europe.  I am pretty sure that if the US bans laptops on flights from Europe, the EU will ban them in the opposite direction, if nothing else as tit for tat retaliation.  This will make long distance flight a LOT worse, at least for me.  Unlike most folks, apparently, I have no interest in onboard entertainment systems and spend most of my time on these long flights getting work done on my PC or reading books on my iPad.  This will make me a lot less likely to schedule a vacation in Europe, and frankly I am relieved we decided at the last minute not to go there this summer.


  1. pseudo:

    It's pretty amazing how far the US has come - traffic stops to check ID, security theater at airports, and now we're effectively making air travel more risky by banning laptops into checked luggage, where potential hazards are less likely to be detected in time for effective mitigation. Yay for the people who spend so much time thinking about how to make us perfectly safe, at the cost of just a tiny little bit of freedom every day.

  2. What the...:

    Airline stocks to the moon on increased revenue from checked baggage!

    And think of the deals that will soon be able to be had on kijiji and the like on laptops and tablets ... and the standard of living of the baggage handlers and ground crew that are less-than-honest at airports everywhere is going to increase.

    The ban makes no sense to me - its ok if it blows up in the cargo hold? Its ok to release chemical agents in the hold and kill the ground workers, or passengers when collecting their bags at baggage claim?

  3. Bistro:

    Moi aussi.

  4. Mercury:

    Take off your shoes, invasive body searches, no sharp objects, no liquids, long security waits...and now now no laptops?....BUMMER!

    If only we could take all the data from all the airline hijackings/bombings of the last 16+ years and try to find some larger pattern so we wouldn't have to treat every airline passenger as equally likely to cause violence during a commercial airline flight!

    That would be more efficient and much less onerous for huge numbers of people- right? Don't you learn how to do stuff like that at HBS?

  5. marque2:

    So in order for the terrorists not to win, we need to let planes be blown up out of the sky, like this one?

    Maybe next time the pilots won't be able to actually land the plane, and crash. Then the terrorists will have really lost!

  6. marque2:

    There are a few reasons.

    First if you blow up a bomb in the passenger area, passengers are more likely to get hurt,or get sucked out of the plane. In luggage, bags, and the occasional rabbit might get hurt. Note that the Somali laptop blast, took out the side of the plane, but the plane was still able to land - only people got hurt, because it blew up in the cabin.

    Secondly, having mass around a bomb makes it more difficult to do damage, since the mass will absorb some of the blast, especially if it is softer non-shrapnel producing mass, like soft luggage. It is probably that the bomb would be in a suit case surrounded by suitcases, which would absorb some of the blast, vs the Somali incident, where the bomb was held right next to the outer wall.

    Third, having it in the baggage area makes it more difficult to detonate with a wifi or cell phone signal, almost no signals will go down to the baggage area due to shielding by the structure of the aircraft. The Somali bomb was hand detonated, I believe.

  7. DaveK:

    If this continues, there is a business opportunity... "rental laptops" for flyers to use during the journey. The customer has apps and data storage either cloud-based or on an attached USB drive. If it was done by the airlines, the laptops could actually stay with the aircraft. Unless you are using very special applications, this could work.

  8. Sam P:

    According to that article, it was a bag that looked like laptop case. Not a bomb disguised as a laptop. However, larger laptops could easily have enough internal space to hide a significant explosive, heck I suspect a decent technician can jigger a lithium-ion/poly battery to violently combust.

  9. james:

    Buy a real book - e.g. a paperback - to read?
    Make notes on a notebook, made of paper?

    Who's being the queen here?

  10. STW:

    I remember, once upon a time, when if were bringing a laptop they asked you to turn it on. The theory was, if it works, there's no room in it for a bomb. Has something changed that means this won't work any more.

  11. johnmoore:

    Also, the baggage areas have structures engineeered to contain explosions.

  12. johnmoore:

    Every time my wife checks her luggage with a laptop in it, we get it later and there is a note, inside, from the TSA that they inspected it.

    Also, the luggage bays are designed to survive explosions - measures put into effect after the Lockerbie bombing. They also have fire extinguishers.

  13. Sam P:

    Laptops have space inside, especially if you don't need it to run for long and aren't worried about overheating. Large laptops have lots of space. Remember "they" are worried about a few ounces of liquid these days, though I suspect that a quantity of a neurotoxin like sarin would be more dangerous than that small a quantity of any explosives.

    Note that lithium-ion batteries have an energy density comparable to explosives. Fortunately LiIon batteries are more of a fire hazard than an explosive hazard, but ignition can be pretty violent. (Check out some videos on Youtube).

  14. Bistro:

    The centerline fuel tanks?

  15. sherlock:

    You're allowed to check a laptop with a battery in it. You cannot check spare batteries. Fire suppression systems in cargo holds aren't effective against a lithium battery fire. They may put out the flames but the heat will remain, potentially starting other fires. A fire that starts from lithium batteries in the passenger cabin is a much more manageable situation where you have a trained crew to deal with it.

  16. Rick Caird:

    Not a queen james. Try updating a spreadsheet on your paper notebook. If you need help in the cyber world, feel free to ask.

  17. ErikTheRed:

    Yeah. I'm going to put my $4,000 fully-loaded MacBook Pro in checked luggage. Right.

    I suppose that now I get to buy a travel laptop to go along with my work laptop. I suppose that's becoming necessary anyway, as I tend to travel with (heavily encrypted) confidential information and the Fourth Amendment apparently doesn't apply in airports. Or I could just fly in and out of either a Canadian or Mexican airport where some semblance of sanity still exists - although it's funny that in Mexico I always get my hand luggage inspected because I'm carrying a ridiculous quantity of electronics. Always the same sequence of facial expressions from the person manning the x-ray machine, then the "you have to be fucking kidding me" looks as the go through my bag. Doesn't seem to happen in other countries, just Mexico.

  18. ErikTheRed:

    It's all security theater. You can still get pretty much anything short of a small nuke through American airport security these days. The stupid part is that if a terrorist wanted to maximize their (sorry) bang for the buck, the best place to set off a bomb would be the security line. So in order to "close" (heh) a security loophole in the air, they've created a larger one on the ground. Way to go, fuckwits.

  19. Matthew Slyfield:

    Will people please stop insulting idiots, morons and fuckwits by associating them with the TSA?

  20. Matthew Slyfield:

    Even just a couple of grams of C4 would be enough to blow a hole in the fuselage causing the cabin to depressurize,

    From a window seat over the wing, I doubt it would take too much more to structurally compromise one of the wings. You don't need to blow it off, just compromise it enough that flight stress will finish the job.

  21. Matthew Slyfield:

    Since the bag containing the bomb was delivered to the suicide bomber by an airport employee after the suicide bomber had passed through airport security, a laptop ban, implemented at the security checkpoints would not have stopped this attack.

  22. marque2:

    The fuel transfer tanks.

  23. Agammamon:

    How would it have changed things if that bomb had been in the luggage compartment?

  24. ErikTheRed:

    Damn. You're right. I feel like such a bag of dicks right now. My sincere apologies to the idiots, morons, and fuckwits I just unfairly demeaned.

  25. ErikTheRed:

    Hah. They're getting all crazy and suspicious about paper lately. Good luck with that.

  26. crs44:

    The government loves people like you.

  27. slocum:

    It's a really dumb and annoying rule, but get a large smartphone along with a cheap blue tooth keyboard and you're good to go watching your own videos, reading books, and getting a bit of work done. It's not ideal obviously, but not horrible either.

  28. slocum:

    Yep. It wouldn't be hard at all to drag a 100 lb bomb in a wheelie bag into the middle of a packed security line. That this doesn't happen must mean that dedicated, competent terrorists are very rare.

  29. james:

    No the govt hates people like me, who dare to point out that some not^blonde youngster might be a bit more of a security risk than a granny.

    I've asked before why there's top security at airports and absolutely none at most train stations. Yet to get an answer.

  30. Peabody:
    They didn't quite get to the security line, but close.

  31. DaveK:

    Much of the baggage these days is "containerized." It is loaded into baggage bins that are hauled to the aircraft, then the entire bins are loaded onto the plane and secured. There has been a concerted effort to toughen up those baggage bins, and many are capable of containing a pretty significant explosion. The other luggage in the bin doesn't hold up so well, however.

  32. DaveK:

    Lithium batteries continue to burn until the lithium is consumed. Adding water just speeds the process. About the only thing really effective for a battery fire is to smother it with something like sand, and use lots of it. If you are fighting a battery fire, mostly what you do is to stand back and let it burn. You might also try to protect things around the fire that might ignite.

  33. Mercury:

    Or just switch to Android.
    My three year old Note 4 has almost 300GB of memory and another 128 or 256 per every fingernail-sized microSD I carry around in my wallet.

  34. JTW:

    large smartphones would fall under the ban too, as do tablets and e-readers. Basically anything larger than a small smartphone now has to go into the hold to be stolen by the unionised cargo handler buddies of the unionised groping "security" people.

  35. JTW:

    someone got to thinking and thought "but they could take the battery, make it just large enough to work a few minutes during the security check, and replace the rest with a bomb".

  36. Shawn Ansley:

    Emirates is already doing this.