My laptop experiences the #ElectronicsBan on Etihad

With the introduction of the electronics ban in March this year, there has been concern about what happens to our laptops and other electronic devices when travelling to the US and transiting via the Middle East. After all, our laptops have all our life on them sometimes, and the Middle East 3 (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways) provide a good quality product at good prices.

Ajay & I are currently in the US, and we took one for the team, deciding to put my laptop through the risk to see how the whole process works. Ajay and I were booked to fly into New York JFK from Mumbai all the way on Etihad’s A380 service via Abu Dhabi.  Usually we always travel with 2 laptops and multiple electronic devices but due to the electronic ban and the chaos, we stuck with one computer between the two of us.

I’d earlier read about how proactively Emirates had responded to the electronic ban  saying ;

a text on a white background

And then other Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar and Etihad had quickly followed Emirates’ footsteps. Some other airlines such as Kuwait Airways, which I was also checking out for this flight (pro-tip, cheap fares to the USA here), did not make the cut because we never knew about their packaging policies

We carried the laptop in our cabin baggage to Abu Dhabi. Once we arrived into Abu Dhabi we had about 4 hours before we boarded the flight to JFK. The great thing about transiting via Abu Dhabi is that Abu Dhabi has US pre- clearance which means that you complete your US immigration and custom formalities in Abu Dhabi itself. Once you arrive into the US you can just pick up your bags and straight away walk out of the airport.

After going through our security check, I was asked if I had any electronic device on me. I mentioned I was carrying my laptop and was directed to a separate counter where I could see a number of boxes stacked up for packing electronics. I also had a GoPro with me which I thought I could take in my hand bag however security asked me to check that in as well.

So, then they took my laptop and the GoPro, ensconced it in a padded brown envelope, sealed the envelope, affixed a limited release baggage tag across the package and handed over the stub to me.

a person handing over a package

Handing over the laptop in Abu Dhabi

I noticed that that the brown envelopes were further being placed in carton boxes that would then be loaded in the belly of the aircraft.

a box with a package inside

Electronic enveloped being packed in carton boxes

The cartons boxes were all marked fragile and there were at least 50 sealed boxes stored. Which probably means that the airline must be handling a minimum of 200 laptops on this flight alone.

a cardboard boxes on a counter

I was advised that once I arrived at JFK there will be separate desk at arrivals where all the electronic devices will be kept ready for collection. I could collect my package by producing my baggage receipt.

a cart full of boxes

Boxes stacked up in Abu Dhabi

Rather hesitant, I bid the two devices farewell and we boarded our 14-hour long flight to JFK. This was my first long haul flight without my computer at hand and I had anticipated that the journey would be quite an ordeal without access to my computer. Surprisingly I didn’t miss it much. I watched 3 movies and managed to nap in between the meal breaks.

On arrival into JFK we walked straight down to the baggage claim area. In the center of the hall there was a desk with staff and I could see familiar boxes stacked there.

a group of people at a desk

Electronics collection point in arrivals in JFK baggage claim area

I went straight up, showed my baggage tag and was handed over my package from the carton box. Both devices were in perfect condition and there wasn’t even a scratch on them.

a brown envelope with a white label

The package handed over to me in JFK arrivals

The only next thing for us to do was to pick up our bags from the baggage belt and walk out of the airport into an Uber.

Have you lately traveled to the US with electronics of late? What has your experience been with checking in your devices?

About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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    • @Gary – There was no separate premium cabin collection space. Also the regular queue wasn’t too big as well. Took us less than 5 mins to locate the desk & pick up the laptop.

  1. Interesting – I wonder if the envelopes are fire-retardant, given the concerns about having batteries in the cargo hold where they’re not accessible in the event a fire during flight.

  2. Travelled Cairo – London last week by Egyot Air. Was prepared for Laptop and IPad to go into hold : but so did the Plug of the phone charger ( one could carry the Cable in cabin though, and charge from a USB). Also, the Power Bank – couldn’t be put either in Checked in or carry on…had to be thrown away at security.

  3. Thank you. I am photographer and have a travel planned in August. Just wanted to know how they are handling large cameras/lenses? Technically lenses are not electronics.
    I am yet to book the flights.

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