Post-Electronics Ban: What to Expect Before Boarding a Flight to the US
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As of July 5, travelers flying from a number of Middle East and African airports have been exempted from the carry-on electronics ban that was originally implemented several months ago. But, what procedures are being put in place instead?
In an interview with CNN, Director of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly mentioned that there would be “seven, eight, nine, 10 things” that European airports would have to do to stay off the list of banned airports. The CNN interviewer asked if the originally-banned airports would be cleared off the list if they implemented the same procedures. Secretary Kelly responded “absolutely, no doubt.”
In late June, the DHS revealed that these additional measures included “enhancing overall passenger screening” — without going into further detail. But, now that we have airports being cleared from the banned list, we can see what new procedures are being put into place. And, since these are the same procedures airports across the world will soon have to implement, we now know what to expect soon for all nonstop flights to the US.
TPG reader Khaled A. just went through the process in Dubai (DXB) before an Emirates flight from DXB to New York (JFK). Here’s his account of the experience:
I entered the gate from the business/first-class floor, and right after entering there were four security agents with fold-up tables. As soon as it was your turn, they would wave you down with the wand looking for any metal items. Then, they ask to remove all electronics from your carry-on. They then swabbed all of the large electronics and put [the swab] through a scanner (for explosives I presume). Afterwards, you’re cleared. It was a fairly quick and easy process, the only delay was having each agent wait their turn for the scan results.
Boiled down, it seems that the new process is:
- Security agents wand your body to check for metal objects
- You remove electronics from your bag
- These electronics are swabbed for explosives in a process that seems similar to when the TSA swabs your hands and/or electronics during additional security screening in the US
- You repack your bag and carry everything on with you
DXB security screeners were a bit lax during the screening of my bag when I flew Emirates through DXB right after the electronics ban was put into place — with undiscovered banned electronics remaining in my bag. So, I asked Khaled if the screening was thorough — he said that he saw some passengers have to “pretty much empty out the contents of their bags on the tables” during the screening process.
In Doha (DOH), it seems a similar process has been put in place. Airline Passenger Experience Association CEO Joe Leader just experienced the new procedures yesterday. He noted the same experience as Klahed, but rather than re-packing your electronics into your carry-on bag, they’re placed into sealed plastic bags.
Thankfully, these bags could be opened immediately after clearing through the other side of security. We’re interested to see if this additional step is maintained after DOH runs out of its current supply of these bags.
These new screening procedures are very reasonable. After all, they are strikingly similar to the process that was championed by the Airline Passenger Experience Association and endorsed by The Points Guy. However, as these new measures spread to more airports worldwide, it’s likely to slow down the boarding process — especially at airports which weren’t previously subject to the electronics ban. So, the next time you’re traveling back to the US from abroad, make sure you leave yourself enough time to allow for the longer process.
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