Flight ban: Will we soon have to check in our expensive camera gear?
The latest US and UK ban on electronic equipment transported as cabin baggage on flights from certain countries is a worrying development for photographers, not to mention businessmen who need to use computers while travelling. And parents are already complaining they will be unable to keep their children quiet. More angst for us.
I won’t go into the reasons for the new restrictions; in the past fifteen years we’ve had many security changes in the wake of specific threats — such as the ban on liquids — and many more questionable restrictions such as the ban on the use of e-readers, smartphones and tablets during take-off and landing. Obviously passenger safety is of paramount importance and we should be sensible.
However, I fear a more general crackdown on electronic equipment that could be with us for years to come. Inevitably there will be the usual knee-jerk overreaction and this doesn’t bode well. I’ve been travelling with computers and cameras for many years and have simply assumed that they go with me into the cabin. I don’t think I would want to commit expensive cameras and lenses, nor a pricey laptop, to the care of the baggage handlers. Not only is there significant risk of damage, the possibility of loss is much higher. This will be exacerbated as airport staff realise that almost every suitcase will contain a stack of attractive electronic gear.
And then there’s the question of insurance cover. It is going to be difficult to ensure adequate cover for expensive and sensitive equipment when it has to be checked in for hold transport. All this is quite apart from the inconvenience that will be caused — for instance, we will be deprived of our computers from the point of check in and will have no way of working airside before the flight takes off.
There are also implications for the many passengers who travel light, with just cabin baggage. There is invariably a computer in the bag, not to mention a camera, and all this will be impossible under the new rules. This means that almost no one will want to travel with just cabin baggage, resulting in more delays and queues at check-in counters.
It’s a worrying development, just when we were beginning to see relaxation of certain rules, not least being the new ability to use electronic devices during take-off and landing. If I’m going to have all my electronic and photographic gear confiscated at check in, I doubt that I will be travelling with a lot of stuff in the future. Worse, once knee-jerk restrictions come it we know that it takes years for them to be relaxed.