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U.S. May Ban Laptops on All Flights from Europe: Reports

According to multiple reports, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering a ban on laptops (and possibly tablets) in the cabins of some or all U.S.-bound flights departing from Europe, citing security fears. Official announcement could come as early as Thursday, although some reports suggest the timeline may be weeks rather than days.

If it happens (and it appears DHS is quite serious about this), it would be calamitous for many travelers. And it would be in contrast to the opinions of most non-DHS security people, who seem to be unanimous in saying that laptops in the cabin aren’t a big threat.

A ruling such as this would hurt both business and leisure travelers. Business travelers, more often than not, need laptops at their destinations even if they don’t absolutely need to use them in flight. And what’s a poor leisure traveler to do on a long flight without access to a tablet or laptop? Leaving aside the question of in-flight use, the big problem with forcing you to put electronic devices in checked baggage means a huge risk of theft or damage.

So if this unfortunate suggestion becomes reality, what can you do? Here are four suggestions:

  • Figure that any electronic device you have to put in checked baggage is toast. If you need a laptop or tablet while you’re at your destination, buy the cheapest notebook you can find to use on your trips, take it with you in the cabin on your trip to Europe, use it there, and hope it survives for another trip, but leave the good stuff at home.
  • Make sure not to store any sensitive business or personal information on a device you check. Instead, store it in a memory chip or thumb drive you can remove and carry with you or in the cloud.
  • For in-flight use, figure on buying the cheapest available e-reader than will pass whatever limits TSA establishes.
  • Or forget it and fly home via Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, or Vancouver.

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