So it looks like that laptop ban for international flights is happening

Angus Kidman 29 May 2017

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Both Australia and the US are now on board.

So it seems all but certain that the US government will push ahead with plans to ban laptops in carry-on luggage for all international flights coming into the country. There is already a ban in place for specific airlines and flights coming from the Middle East. Over the weekend, US homeland security secretary John Kelly told Fox News that the US government was actively considering such a ban in response to intelligence suggesting that laptops might be used to conceal ultra-thin bombs.

"We are still following the intelligence and are in the process of defining this, but we're going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now," Kelly said. New procedures for scanning carry-on baggage for domestic flights are also being considered, in part because many travellers stuff their bags so full it's hard to scan them effectively.

The European Union has said it is not planning to pursue a total laptop ban, but Australia's government has said that a ban is probable. In reality, Australia is more likely to follow the US lead than that of Europe in this instance.

I've already written about how any ban on laptops in the cabin would be a major inconvenience for travellers, making flights less productive and greatly increasing the risk that your laptop will be damaged in transit. But let's assume for the moment that the risk is great enough that such a change is justified. What's the impact?

The really big losers here are the airlines. Some passengers are likely to cancel planned business trips. It's hard enough running an airline profitably these days, especially in the US, and business travel is one of the more profitable segments, with higher fares and (relatively) fewer bargain seekers. Some of the airlines affected by the existing ban are offering special transport for laptops and in-flight iPads so people can continue working. That's helpful, but it's also added expense.

Such a ban also creates hassles for airlines which have introduced in-flight streaming for entertainment, or who provide on-board Wi-Fi. Neither option is as appealing when you can't use it on anything bigger than a phone. And even a Kindle looks likely to be banned if "no bigger than a phone" is the yardstick.

The possible winners here? Travel insurance companies. If you have no choice but to place your laptop in checked baggage, you'll want to be sure you're covered in the event of damage from an over-excited baggage handler, or theft en route. So if you are planning a trip, make sure your policy does cover any electronics in transit - cheap policies don't always do that.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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