For the past few days, frequent travelers have been dreading some bad news other then just being stuck in the middle seat: having to check their laptops before flying home from Europe.
That’s the fear invoked by reports that the Department of Homeland Security will expand it’s current ban on large electronic devices in the cabins of long flights to the U.S. from the previous 10 airports across Africa and the Middle East, to all U.S. bound flights coming from Europe.
Until we see the details, we will have to hold off on any sort of questioning regarding a policy that almost no other country enforces.
It is interesting to think about what airlines might do to cope with this ban, and what that could mean for your safety and the safety of your data.
The main rule of checking baggage is not to put anything valuable into a bag that will spend hours in the hands of strangers. Many of whom don’t work for the airline you fly.
Some foreign airlines blindsided by the electronics ban announced in March responded by setting up systems to check in laptops at the gate or even on board. This way they would stay with airline staff members until the flight is over.
Emirates, Etihad, Qatar airways and Turkish airlines have all done this. The first three even offered loaner devices to passengers in business or first class.
People who have used these services have generally said good things about it.
But who knows how well that would work considering last year flights to the Middle East involved far less people: 9,753,172, then to Europe 59,401,505.
If you can’t protect your device, protect your data
Should the current ban be extended across Europe, Travelers with gadgets would have to hope that their airline would provide some sort of service like the Middle East.
But none of the 10 U.S. airports covered by the current ban have yet to say how they might deal with a wider prohibition on in-cabin electronics.
If your airline will gate check your laptop, you shouldn’t have to worry about anything being stolen. But you should still be ready for some unproductive boredom on your flight.
The cost of a laptop or tablet might not be an issue, considering the cap on liability for luggage is about $1,550. But your data on the other hand is something completely different.
According to some it is advised that you travel with a Chromebook. They are relatively affordable and lightweight. They automatically backup your data to Google, allowing you to wipe it before handing it over and restoring it when you get to your destination.
If you have to carry a real laptop it is advised that you create an extremely complex password and power the device down before checking it in.
Ultimately you should be extra careful about what devices you bring across the border under these new regulations. In many cases it might just be best to leave the laptop at home.