Elec­tron­ics ban’s ef­fects

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Your costs may in­crease.

The ban on in-cabin elec­tron­ics larger than a smart­phone is one of the more fluid is­sues af­fect­ing trav­el­ers. Ten air­ports in the Mid­dle East and north­ern Africa are a no-go for big elec­tron­ics in car­ryons. (To see the list, go to www.lat.ms/air­portlist.) Home­land Se­cu­rity re­cently said it could broaden the ban to 71 more air­ports. Or it might not. It’s im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict, in part be­cause we don’t know what’s be­hind a con­cern that seemed to emerge in March. Be­yond the ob­vi­ous sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, the ban has some un­in­tended con­se­quences. ¶ It is the un­in­tended that may catch trav­el­ers un­aware be­cause the rules were put into place with­out the minute details that pro­mote con­sis­tency of en­force­ment. Here are some ways your travel could change.

Even though your lap­top or tablet got a free pass to ride in the cabin on the way to your Mid­dle East des­ti­na­tion, it may not on the way home, said Craig Fichtel­berg, pres­i­dent of AmTrav, which man­ages busi­ness travel.

If you didn’t pay for your ticket with a co-branded air­line credit card, on your way home you’ll have to pay to check a bag with your elec­tron­ics, mail your elec­tron­ics or send them by ex­press mail.

Many peo­ple are un­easy about putting elec­tron­ics in suit­cases be­cause the air­lines have told us re­peat­edly never to pack any­thing of value in our checked bag­gage. Yet we may not have a choice un­less you want to mail your elec­tronic baby from the Mid­dle East. The air­lines’ cost may in­crease, which usu­ally means your costs will in­crease some more.

Hen­rik Zillmer, chief ex­ec­u­tive of AirHelp, which as­sists trav­el­ers with get­ting com­pen­sa­tion for flight de­lays or can­cel­la­tion, flew back from Dubai soon after the ban was in­sti­tuted.

At the air­port he saw air­line per­son­nel help­ing to “re­house” lap­tops and other elec­tron­ics that un­aware pas­sen­gers had in their carry-ons.

“There were about 10 [air­line] peo­ple … oc­cu­pied with putting lap­tops and elec­tron­ics in boxes,” Zillmer said.

That la­bor is not free. And as we know, air­lines are al­ways ea­ger to have you pay for things they don’t think they should have to do.

Pre­pare to spend more time wait­ing for lug­gage.

The beauty of a carry-on bag — be­sides gen­er­ally not hav­ing to pay for it — is that you can walk off the plane and get

on with your life. If you’re check­ing a bag, you’ll be spend­ing more qual­ity time at the lug­gage carousel.

And, Zillmer dis­cov­ered in his case, the sep­a­rate box­ing of elec­tron­ics re­quired stand­ing in an­other line to re­trieve them be­fore he could stand in line to get his bag.

Spend­ing time in an air­port, CBS travel edi­tor Peter Green­berg once said, is like spend­ing time in a dirty sock. Spend­ing more time in an air­port must be like more time in a re­ally dirty sock. Don’t count on more elec­tron­ics to solve your lack of elec­tron­ics prob­lems.

I can turn my smart­phone into my lap­top’s mini-me. It can con­nect through VPN or Re­mote Desk­top to my desk­top at work (although air­lines’ lo-fi Wi-Fi can turn 10-minute tasks into a 30-minute process).

I can send email. I can even write memos.

Rather than re­ly­ing on thumb typ­ing, at which I am ex­cep­tion­ally bad, I thought a small wire­less key­board con­nected to my iPhone would work.

And it could, but Seth Ka­plan of Air­line Weekly cast a bit of doubt on that.

He was on a re­turn trip from Is­tan­bul re­cently and had packed his elec­tron­ics in his checked lug­gage, as he was re­quired to do.

One of his fel­low pas­sen­gers, though, thought a wire­less key­board could be her BFF on a long flight.

Nope, Ka­plan said. It was taken away. He was un­sure whether the air­line was act­ing out of an abun­dance of cau­tion or there was some doc­u­ment that man­dated this.

We don’t know be­cause the Home­land Se­cu­rity memo is so broad that it is sort of like a job de­scrip­tion that ends with “other du­ties as as­signed.” It could mean any­thing. What­ever the is­sue, it leads to this: Be­cause we don’t know what we don’t know, we’re go­ing to need to ask many more ques­tions.

Few peo­ple want to spend more time on the phone with their air­line, but that may be the lot of Michele Burgess, a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia pho­tog­ra­pher and tour group leader who asked me about pack­ing cam­eras in checked bags.

Yes, cam­eras that are larger than a smart­phone must be placed in checked bags. What about the cam­era lenses? Burgess asked.

“The an­nounce­ment doesn’t spec­ify about the lens specif­i­cally, so the safest thing to do would be to check di­rectly with the air­line,” said Kelsey Blod­get, se­nior ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor of Oys­ter.com, which de­scribes it­self as an un­bi­ased source of ho­tel in­for­ma­tion.

Even then, de­pend­ing on what guid­ance the air­line has had, you may get dif­fer­ent an­swers. After all, isn’t the stan­dard wis­dom in deal­ing with air­line agents on the tele­phone to hang up and call back un­til you get an an­swer you like?

In­vest in thumb drives. Some air­lines, Ka­plan said, are of­fer­ing loaner lap­tops. But with­out your data, you’re dead in the wa­ter.

The an­swer: Flash drives (en­crypted, of course). Again, an­other cost but worth it. Just don’t leave be­hind traces of your work. Turn back the clock.

Re­mem­ber a time be­fore elec­tron­ics were our most im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship? An in­cabin ban may mean we’re in lo-tech land.

Gabe Rizzi, pres­i­dent of Travel Lead­ers Cor­po­rate, said in an email: “It seems old fash­ioned, but pen and pa­per still ex­ist. There’s a lot to be said for writ­ing — yes, us­ing a pen! — when work­ing on a plane. You’re lim­ited, but you can make a to-do list for when you land, out­line what you want your pre­sen­ta­tion to look like, and make note of your team’s work.

“I like to think of a notebook as serv­ing as my mini mo­bile white­board.”

These pre-iPhone tech­niques may not seem glam, but they have an up­side, said April Masini, a re­la­tion­ship ex­pert who writes the Ask April col­umn.

“If elec­tron­ics are banned from air­line cab­ins, there’s go­ing to be a resur­gence in books — not Kin­dles or elec­tronic books, but real books with pa­per pages,” she said in an email. “Ex­pect to see more stock car­ried in air­line book­stores and more peo­ple us­ing that time in the air­line cabin to read.” That’s just the be­gin­ning. “There may be a very pos­i­tive out­come to forc­ing busi­ness trav­el­ers and fam­i­lies to un­plug on plane rides,” she said. In­stead of fly­ing face to screen, they may re­lax. They may nap, think, med­i­tate, come upon aha! mo­ments and even con­verse with fel­low trav­el­ers.

“In other words, there’s a so­cial up­side to un­plug­ging while fly­ing. Peo­ple will con­nect more — with each other.”

Maybe there are some sil­ver lin­ings in these clouds. But it is also the re­spon­si­bil­ity of On the Spot to find the clouds in the sil­ver lin­ings.

Next week look for Spot on­line at www.la­times.com/ travel (see the an­nounce­ment on L3). We’ll talk about one of my fa­vorite top­ics. I’d tell you it’s about in­sur­ance, but your eyes would glaze over.

For now, let’s just say it will be about how to get money back when your stuff is stolen from or dam­aged in your checked lug­gage.

Bid­di­boo Getty Images

YOU MAY need to find non-screen ways of oc­cu­py­ing chil­dren on some flights.

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