Electronic device restrictions: Can you take a laptop on a plane?

1 March 20174 min read

A male passenger using his laptop wearing headphones during a flight with other people sat around him

The UK government has banned laptops and other large electronic devices from being taken into the cabin on flights to the UK from certain countries. Here we outline what we know so far.

What has happened?

The government has announced a cabin ban on all electronic items larger than a smartphone on all direct passenger flights to the UK from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. Such items will still be allowed in the hold as checked baggage.

The move follows a similar ban implemented by the United States on March 20. Other European countries may follow suit.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “We understand the frustration that these measures may cause and we are working with the aviation industry to minimise any impact.

“Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals. People should continue to fly and comply with security procedures.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “There is a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation. The threat is constantly evolving and we must respond accordingly.”

Which airlines are affected?

Six UK airlines – British Airways, easyJet, Jet2 and Thomson Airways – are affected, as well as eight other Turkish and Middle Eastern carriers, including Turkish Airlines.

Airlines which fail to comply with these new rules will be barred from flying to the UK.

What items are banned?

Passengers will no longer be able to take devices that are “larger than a normal sized mobile or smart phone” into the cabin with them on flights to the UK from these countries.

You will still be able to these devices with you on holiday, but on your return flight they will have to go in the aircraft’s hold area in your checked luggage.

Examples of the devices affected include:

  • Laptops
  • E-readers/tablets/Kindles
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVD players
  • Electronic game units larger than a smartphone
  • Travel printers/scanners

What do I need to do when I go on holiday?

If you are going on holiday to one of these countries, your flight out will be unaffected – you can take your laptops and other large devices into the cabin with you as normal.

On your return flight from these countries, however, you will need to ensure that any large electronic devices are checked in at the airport before your flight, to be stored in the plane’s hold. If any such device is found in your cabin baggage, you will not be allowed to take it with you.

Will my electronic devices be covered by my insurance?

If your checked baggage is lost, many travel insurance policies do not cover electronic items, or feature ‘single item limits’, which often limit the compensation you can possible receive for any single item to only £100-£200 – far below the value of many of these devices. You should check your travel insurance policy very carefully, and take out a separate gadget insurance policy if necessary.

Saga and Holiday Extras have become the first travel insurance providers to announce changes to their policies to ensure electronics which can no longer be taken in the cabin are now covered in the hold.

Saga’s policies have been updated to cover individual electronic items up to £600, with a total coverage of £1,000, as long as the items are placed in a locked suitcase when travelling from affected countries. Holiday Extras has extended its gadget cover to include items that are placed in an aircraft’s hold, subject to the company’s usual policy cover limits.

Other providers may follow suit – you should speak to your insurance provider to find out what is covered and what is not.

What other issues does the laptop and tablet ban raise?

Short trips: Holidaymakers on short trips often travel light, without any checked baggage – the new restrictions mean they will either have to pay for checked baggage (which also means hanging around in the airport for longer) or leave their large electronic devices at home.

Connecting flights: You may be booked on a Turkish Airlines flight from Beijing to London, with a stopover in Istanbul. It’s currently unclear if or how you will be forced to check such items in at any departure airport outside those countries affected, and it appears to be the case that if you have a banned device in your carry-on baggage when you transfer at Istanbul, it will show on a security scanner and you will have to leave it there – you may be able to claim it back if you return, but you won’t be allowed to take it with you into the cabin.

Damage and theft: Checked luggage often gets knocked around, which could result in damage to expensive items. The knowledge that luggage may contain these expensive items may encourage thieves, too.

Working on flights: Business travellers on affected flights will no longer be able to work on their laptops or other devices while flying, other than what they can manage on a smartphone.

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