Cape Town – Passengers travelling to popular destinations and stopovers such as Doha, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Dubai will now be more vulnerable to theft and damage to property as they will be forced to check in valuables like laptops, iPads and cameras.
This is according to Otto de Vries, CEO of the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA), saying that while the association "supports any initiatives to improve the safety and security of travellers and the destinations that they visit, the reasons behind these new rules have not been made clear, other than to say that they have been put in place ‘based on the current threat picture’."
On Wednesday, South African Airways put travellers at ease when they issued a statement saying they have not imposed a general ban on the use or carriage of electronic devices on board its flights as the airline has not received any directive from US Department of Transportation or the Federal Aviation Administration to restrict or ban usage of electronic devices on board its aircraft.
SEE: #ElectronicsBan: SAA US flights unaffected
According to SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali, “Customers may continue to use and enjoy their devices in our cabins except for those electronic devices that have specifically been prohibited on board and public/customer notifications to that effect have been made."
Regardless, ASATA says they are concerned that the recent announcement by the United Kingdom and the United States - banning laptops, tablets, e-readers and several other electronic devices from hand luggage on flights originating from 10 airports - will cost travellers in future.
Travellers will not be allowed to stow any electronic device larger than 16cm x 9.3cm in their hand luggage in terms of a ban, to come into effect on Friday, 24 March.
“Traditionally, at check-in, travellers are asked if they have anything valuable in their checked baggage. It would now appear that passengers travelling to the US and UK from affected destinations, even if it is via these destinations, will be forced to include their valuable in their checked baggage risking theft and damage to their property,” De Vries says.
The big worry, according to ASATA, is who will be responsible if these electronic items are stolen or damaged as travel insurers are clear that this will not be covered in their insurance policies.
SEE: #ElectronicsBan: How are SA travellers affected?
De Vries says there are too many grey areas in the new ban. "Will checked bags be screened as thoroughly as hand baggage is? What processes at airports will need to change to accommodate these changes?," he asks.
“And then, of course, there’s a risk that electronic devices may be stolen, and if the bag has been breached is that not in itself a security threat?” De Vries notes.
What the ban entails?
Airlines affected by the US and UK ban include Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Egypt Air and Turkish Airlines.
Affected devices not allowed in hand luggage include all tablets, iPads, Kindles, e-readers, laptops, cameras and lenses, portable DVD players, electronic game devices and travel printers and scanners larger than 16cm x 9.3cm.
The 10 international airports affected by the ban -
Cairo in Egypt
Amman in Jordan
Kuwait City in Kuwait
Casablanca in Morocco
Doha in Qatar
Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia
Istanbul in Turkey
Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates
The US and UK implemented the ban amid fears that terror groups have developed the capability to hide a bomb in a laptop big enough to blow a hole in the side of a plane.
READ: US #ElectronicsBan on flights: What travellers need to know
ASATA is a representative forum in the industry to promote professional service with security for both members and their clients. ASATA is entirely voluntary and extends to South African retail travel agents, travel management companies and wholesalers.
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