Emirates Airlines is introducing a service that will allow passengers to use their laptops and tablets until it's time to board their US-bound flights instead of checking them with their luggage.
The service is a response to the US government's ban on large electronic devices in cabins that goes into effect on Saturday. The idea is that Emirates can let travelers use the devices for as long as possible instead of making them check the devices before a flight.
"Our aim is to ensure compliance with the new rules, while minimizing disruption to passenger flow and impact on customer experience," Emirates President Tim Clark said in a statement. "Our new complimentary service enables passengers, particularly those flying for business, to have the flexibility to use their devices until the last possible moment."
On Tuesday, the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Transportation Security Administration issued a ban on all electronics larger than a cellphone from the cabins of nonstop flights to the US from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. It's disproportionately problematic for a carrier like Emirates, which counts on international business travelers for a significant portion of its revenue and to fill hundreds of seats in its fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos.
Industry analysts have said the ban's execution has been haphazard, while safety experts have questioned its ability to prevent a terrorist attack.
Emirates' service offers a partial fix. It also means passengers flying through Dubai on their way to the US from India, for example, could use a laptop during the first flight and while they're at the airport instead of having to check it at the start of the trip. It could also be a solution for business travelers whose employers don't allow them to check laptops for fear they could be lost or stolen with company information on them.
Passengers will be required to declare their large electronic devices to security agents before boarding US-bound flights. The devices would then be packed in secure boxes and stored in the aircraft's cargo hold. The boxes would be returned to the travelers once they reached the US.
According to Emirates, passengers' carry-on bags will be thoroughly searched by security personnel before they board nonstop flights to the US.
On board the flight, passengers will be able to access the internet on their phones through the airline's free Wi-Fi service. According to Clark, 90% of the airline's passengers surf the web on their smartphones, while only 6% use their laptops.
Emirates has also been touting its in-flight entertainment system and its 2,500 channels of movies, TV shows, live sports, and music.
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