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Frequent flyers to US frustrated by electronics ban

ABU DHABI // Businessmen, parents and frequent travellers from the UAE to the US spoke of their frustration about travelling on long-haul flights without their electronic devices.

They said fear of theft or damage to their devices and being unable to access important data were major concerns.

The new restriction means passengers travelling on direct flights to the US, which can last up to 18 hours, will have to check in their laptops, e-readers, tablets and other devices with their luggage.

American expatriate Kelly Webb, who makes at least three round trips to the US every year, said the new law was ridiculous. “I pack my Kindle and iPad in my carry-on because they are personal items, not easily replaced if stolen,” said the 53-year-old.

“Also, the shape that my luggage arrives in is miserable – many times torn, smashed or wet. Moreover, I have information on my iPad that I need in hand as I travel, but in my checked-in luggage, I have no control.”

A Jordanian businessman said he cancelled his US travel plans after the ban was announced.

“This issue is very annoying for me because I am a businessman and when I travel the trip could last for about 16 hours. I use my laptop on board the flight to finish my work or contact my clients through Skype,” said Amjad Mohammed, 28.

“It is pointless. I do not know what is the significance of this ban. On the contrary, it stimulates stealing the luggage of passengers.

“If they will feel that I am a danger to them, I do not want to go there and do not need it because I will be humiliated by this approach.”

Parents will also have to look at alternative ways to keep young children occupied throughout the flight, travellers said.

Canadian Samarra Abu Samra, 30, a ballet studio director, is flying to the US with her children on Sunday, a day after the ban is due to come into force. She has four-month-old twins, a four-year-old and an eight-year-old.

“I need to start prepping my children for 16 hours of colouring book sessions,” she said.

“My kids are allowed to use their iPads on vacation only and on the flights. I have no other option to keep them occupied for the entire flight next week and, unfortunately, it is a day flight so they will not sleep either.”

Ms Abu Samra, who is travelling to Los Angeles with her dance students for a competition, is also worried about losing her checked-in electronics.

“Since we are dance teachers and students, we rely on iPads to listen to music and rehearse regularly. I am very nervous about checking in devices because I fear they will be stolen,” she said.

Another American, Nikita Gandhi, a chef who often travels to the US for work, said checking in her devices would be risky in every way.

“If there are urgent work emails – although smartphones have everything on them now – there could be a document on the laptop that needs to be sent immediately, I would not be able to do that,” she said.

“I also use my laptop to charge my phone – can’t do that any more. I choose to keep my laptop with me, because it is safer and has all my important documents. Checking it in would be risky on many grounds.”

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The National