Stories by Louis Ibah
The news that the governments of the United States of America (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have banned the carrying of laptops and other large electronic devices by passengers inside the main cabin of aircraft from some Middle East and North African countries has raised a number of questions for Nigerian air travellers, especially those who patronise the affected airlines and airports.
Indeed, a great number of Nigerians who travel to the US or UK go through Middle Eastern or North African carriers not minding the longer flying hours which also involves stopovers at these airlines’ country airport hubs. And the reasons are simple: In an attempt to woo more passengers ready for the lengthy flight durations, these carriers usually offer cheaper or more affordable air fares when compared to the European and American carriers.
Air travellers are usually attracted to the ease or convenience they get by just walking into an airport and checking in their heavy luggage and those they consider light enough they carry on inside the aircraft. In contemporary times, a laptop has proved a most suitable companion on an international flight. A lot of passengers stay connected to news or listen to radio, watch TV programmes, read or even study on board aircraft just as many have continued a day’s work on such flights using most of the electronic devices that are now being banned. The ban announced on March 25 and 28, 2017 by the US and UK respectively , as much as it has come with a lot of controversies, has also created its own inconveniences for passengers that patronise these airlines and airports.
But why the ban
The US and UK governments have explained that they took the decision as a proactive measure following intelligence report that terrorists possibly from Yemen-based al-Qaeda or even ISIS were planning to use sophisticated bombs fitted inside electronic devices to explode in aircraft heading to the US or UK.. Recall that there was a recent failed bombing of an airliner in Somalia in early 2016 where a bomb was hidden in a laptop. It is also believed that the crash last year of Egypt Air flight MS804 from Cairo, Russia was due to a bomb explosion inside the aircraft as traces of explosives have been found on the remains of some of the victims by investigators.
What is really banned and by who?
Specifically, for the United States of America, the ban covers “all personal electronics devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage. Put differently, the US bans any device larger than a smartphone – including tablets and cameras – from being carried into the cabin of an aircraft flying to any US airport.
Passengers with such devices are advised to put them away or get them inside their checked in luggage. The US advises passengers to first check with their airlines if unsure whether their smartphone is impacted by the ban or not.
Here is the list of airports whose US-bound flights are affected by the electronic devices ban:
• Egypt: Cairo International Airport, Cairo
• Jordan: Queen Alia International Airport, Amman
• Kuwait: Kuwai International Airport, Kuwait City
• Morocco: Muhammed V Airport in Casablanca
• Qatar: Hamad International Airport, Doha
• Saudi Arabia: (1) King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. (2) King Khalid International Airport ion Riyadh
• Turkey: Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul
• UAE; (1) Abu Dhabi International Airport. (2) Dubai International Airport
This list gives a clear idea to Nigerian passengers the airlines that they will have to restrain their use of the banned electronic device if they have to fly them en route the US. It doesn’t however affect those passengers flying directly, for instance, from Lagos – Dubai or Doha as final stops.
The UK on its part says its own ban covers anything electronic larger than a 160mmlong, 93mm wide and 15mm deep must go into the hold. That includes laptops, e-readers, tablets, computers and some larger smartphones. The rule also prohibits keyboards, external hard drives and power cable transformers. Passengers will be asked to check in any of these “offending” electronic devices before going through the security check. However, spare batteries from these devices, or portable power sources are banned entirely from either the cabin baggage and hold luggage meaning they can’t be checked in at all.
The UK ban covers flights emanating out of all airports in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
It is however important to note the major differences between the two. The UK ban applies to six countries (Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey) and only four of those countries are on the US list. These are: Egypt, Jordan, turkey and Saudi Arabia. Note also that The UK has included all flights from airports in Tunisia and Lebanon, but it has however exempted the two main airports of the UAE namely and also the airport in Doha, Qatar and Morroco which are on the US list. That’s the difference. And it means Nigerian passengers travelling to the UK via Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha or Morroco have no cause to worry over the ban.
What if I have a connecting flight via one of the countries on the list?
The 2,000 or so travellers who each day fly in transit via Istanbul, Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Riyadh or Jeddah to the UK are generally being offered a choice. They can of course consign their devices to hold baggage at the start of the trip. Or, at least on Turkish Airlines (easily the biggest carrier), they can surrender the device at the gate for the flight to the UK. It will be placed in a special sealed case, and returned from a special desk in baggage reclaim on arrival.
The key question concerned stakeholders are asking about the laptop ban is whether it would indeed prevent a terrorist attack. After all, it’s just as possible to blow up a device in the baggage compartment of an aircraft as in the passenger cabin.
Also there is the bigger risk with putting laptops in the baggage hold was battery fire. Some electronic devices have lithium-ion batteries that could catch fire in the air — and it’s a lot easier to spot and put out a fire in a cabin full of people than in a baggage hold.
What airlines are doing to assist
The Economists magazine recently said airlines affected are testing other solutions to ease passengers plight. Etihad, for example, has so far stopped short of offering laptops, but has said that from April 2, it will give premium-class passengers on their way to the United States free use of an iPad and free access to the plane’s Wi-Fi. Emirates, meanwhile, has introduced a laptop-handling service, allowing passengers to use their devices just before boarding, when the airline collects them and packs them into the hold. This means that flyers can have their computers returned when they connect onto a flight that does not include America. Whether any of this will be enough to persuade passengers to stick with the carriers remains to be seen. The airlines and their passengers would obviously prefer life without the hassle.
FAAN opens 2017 IGR contract bids
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) says it has begun the process of evaluating bidding companies for the award of contracts under its 2017 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), by opening tendered documents in line with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
FAAN on the February 20, 2017 had placed adverts in various national dailies, including the Federal Tenders Journal requesting qualified organizations to express their interest for the award of contracts in different categories under the heading: Tax, Audit Assignment, Medical Equipment, Goods and Works, in fulfillment of section 25-2(1) of the Public Procurement Act.
The opening, which began at about 1130hours at the Authority’s headquarters last Monday in Lagos had in attendance the Technical Evaluation Committee for the bids. Also present were three independent observers from the Builders Association, Centre for Transparency Watch and Project Development Network and an official from the Ministry of Transport, to ensure transparency. Successful bidders will be contacted after the evaluation process had been concluded.
Air Peace bags airline-of-the-year award
…SAA gets Skytrax ranking
Air Peace Limited has won the Airline of the Year Award for 2016 for its outstanding performance despite the huge challenges facing local carriers continue in the country.
Receiving the award during the 20th edition of City People Awards for Excellence, Air Peace said it was further raising the quality of its services to guarantee air travellers the best flight experience in the country and beyond.
Speaking at the award ceremony held in Lagos, Air Peace Corporate Communications Manager, Mr. Chris Iwarah, said the carrier had maintained an unbeatable record of on-time performance and safety of air travellers since it started commercial flight operations in 2014.
The City People award, he said, was a confirmation that the airline was providing exceptional flight services in the country.
The airline said the launch of its Accra-Ghana route on February 16, 2017 was the first step in projecting its capacity to deliver top-notch regional and international flight services.
Air Peace confirmed that it was finalising arrangements to service its planned long-haul routes, including Guangzhou-China, Mumbai, Dubai, Atlanta, London and South Africa, with the Boeing 777 aircraft it was acquiring.
Meanwhile, South African Airways, has been awarded 4-Star Skytrax ranking, in both Business and Economy Class, for a 15th consecutive year.
The Skytrax 4-Star ranking is a seal of quality approval awarded to airlines supplying excellent quality performance across a range of product and service-delivery rating areas. This rating is assessed by Skytrax after detailed product and service standards audits for each featured airline and is not connected to any customer ratings.
A 4-Star Airline rating signifies airlines providing a good standard of product and staff service across all travel categories, including cabin seating, safety standards, cabin cleanliness, comfort amenities, catering, tax-free sales, reading materials, in-flight entertainment, and staff service.
The SAA stations that were audited this year are: South Africa: OR Tambo International Airport, Durban and Cape Town airports; regional – Mauritius and Namibia; international – Hong Kong, UK, and Sao Paulo – including SAA brand new Airbus A330-300 aircraft fleet.
In his reaction, SAA General Manager, Operations, Zuks Ramasia, commended the hard work and commitment of the airline staff, “The South African Airways product and service standards continue to perform at a standard that is meeting 4-Star levels and this applies to long-haul, regional, and domestic flights,” he said.