What do the latest US & UK emergency directives mean for family travellers?
(This article was first published in March 2017 when the US Government imposed an electronics ban on flights originating from the Middle East. The ban was lifted in July 2017, with “improved security screening measures” cited as the reason. We have left the published information in the event any similar bans are brought in future you will have an easy reference guide – all our flying survival tips with children remain valid!!)
In the latest twisted tale for international travellers to the US, electronic devices on board aircraft departing from certain airports have now been banned.
Not all electronics. Not all airlines. Before you panic, read on.
What electronics are included in the ban?
The choices seem strangely selective at this time, but in the early hours after a directive was issued by the Department of Homeland Security, it would appear “any devices larger than a cellphone/smartphone will not be allowed to be carried onboard the aircraft in carry-on luggage”. This is understood to mean:
- Portable DVD players
- travel printers/scanners
The National in the UAE have given this current guidance though there seems no exact size specifications yet from US authorities
Ok, take a breath travelling parents!!
Which airports are affected by the electronics ban?
At present, seven Middle East / African airports are affected, these are direct flights to the US only from:
- AMM – Queen Alia International Airport (Jordan)
- CAI – Cairo International Airport (Egypt)
- CMN – Mohammed V Airport (Morroco)
- IST – Ataturk International Airport (Turkey)
- JED – King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (Saudi Arabia)
- KWI – Kuwait International Airport (Kuwait)
- RUH – King Khalid International Airport (Saudi Arabia)
Which airlines are affected?
- Kuwait Airways
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
It is confirmed that the UK has followed suit with a hand luggage electronics ban for flights originating from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Any device measuring greater than 16cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm must be stowed in your chekced luggage.
What can families do in light of the current US electronics ban
I think it would be fair to say there would be very few long-haul travellers who won’t find this ban significantly impacts on their flying experience. These routes are all 10 hours + and as anyone who has flown that far in one hit can attest, these type of flights need special coping techniques by all on board to make the experience as bearable as possible.
This is amplified for those travelling with young children as their attention spans are much shorter and tolerance for change in routine much weaker than an adult.
If you ask any regular flying parent how they cope with long flights with children (ourselves included!), I bet 9 out of 10 would say iPad (or equivalent tablet) in their top few items to bring on board and help pass the time. Equally, most grown-ups have some form of electrical device with them these days.
Read here about out 16hour+ flight experience from Doha to Miami with three aged 5 and under
Who knows if this ban will be a permanent fixture or disappear as quickly as it was announced (The first three airports took about 3 months to have their bans lifted). One thing that has been made clear, if the airlines DON’T comply, the FAA will revoke the airline’s certificate to operate flights in the United States, so there really is no choice but compliance by the airlines concerned.
So your options
1 Reschedule your flight. If you feel you simply cannot survive without the electronic devices, or think that checking these items would cause you undue risk and stress, you might want to jump onto the likes of Skyscanner or Momondo and check out different routes that involve a stopover from a European city. Remember the ban is targetted at flights from specific airports, not airlines.
(Remember when the hand luggage ban came in 2001 and they tried to part J K Rowlands from her Harry Potter manuscripts?! It’s understandable some things are too valuable to part with.)
2 Load up your smartphone instead. The only electronics device apparently still permitted (bar maybe some old school handheld games?) – but is there enough smartphone love to go around? Time to load it up with the kids games if you haven’t already. Maybe easier said than done if you have more kids than phones, but remind them of the good old days and how lucky they are, right? If they’ve gotta share why not get a headphone splitter (coz playing movies and games out loud on a plane breaks one of the 10 Commandments of family air travel)
3 Rely on in-flight entertainment systems. Whilst many of the airlines listed above do have quality onboard entertainment systems (including Emirates and Qatar particularly have received a big thumbs up from us in their family offering), I’d never rely on this alone. I reckon we are at a rate of about 1 in 4 of our flights at least one of us will have a faulty screen, so have a back-up plan!
4 Find alternative sources of entertainment. I know faaaaaar easier said than done, right? But believe it or not, people used to cope on ultra-long-haul flights well before iPads and e-readers were invented.
Bring on the busy bag!!!
Best electronics-free suggestions for flying with kids
A busy bag is basically a pack of goodies to keep your kids entertained in the air. Don’t worry it doesn’t have to be full of hand-crafted goodies, just enough items to keep your child’s attention for more than a millisecond.
Some people may have suggested to you before to “individually wrap” these items for a little surprise. Well if you have the time to do this sure, for others, rest assured this doesn’t make you a lesser human being. Us mere mortals do a quick round of the dollar shop and chuck them in any old bag (preferably one the child is capable of carrying themselves).
I would, however, condone packing some new toys separately so they can be “revealed” later in the flight. And throwing in a mixture of old favourites along with the new treats.
Don’t be tempted to overpack. When travelling with kids you are no doubt already carrying a huge artillery of spare diapers, change of clothes, snacks, bottles, paperwork. Do bring enough to keep them busy but don’t over do it either, there is a happy medium!
We have a really detailed post on “What we pack in our toddlers plane bag” which has a heap of really useful suggestions as well as ideas for slightly older children too (and don’t miss our WHAT not to pack guide!) – As well as the suggestions below, have a good look through this page and our reasoning why we do /don’t include certain items for air travel.
A handful of our non-electronic favourites
Must Read: “Simple steps to survive flights with children” where we take you through the whole flight process from pre-flight, boarding, meals, plus tactics for dealing with the screaming child and dealing with delays.
Are you soon travelling to the US? What electronics-free measures will you be taking to entertain the kids?
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