Cue Samuel L. Jackson. Seriously, the recent gadget ban for inbound flights from the Middle East has me thinking of another film. Everyone remember that Stallone film, The Specialist? That was a nice film. It showed how the characters of Sly and James Woods, a couple of rival explosives experts can put C4 explosives on just about anything. Crab cakes are not an exemption. Not an explosives expert here. The film may have done some exaggeration. But if James Woods can blow up an office with C4 inside a pen, how much damage can C4 inside a fake tablet do in an airplane cabin?
Passengers to the US or UK in direct flight from the following countries are now banned from carrying gadgets larger than a smartphone in airplane cabins. The countries are Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The ban was due to intelligence reports that terrorists are planning to blow up a commercial airlines flight using a fake iPad. Putting C4 inside a case should be easy enough. The lowlife would just have to press the power button and boom. The idea isn’t unlikely as it’s been done before just recently last February 2016 when someone detonated a bomb in a Somali plane. The explosives were allegedly hidden inside a laptop. Fortunately, the plane was able to land.
Times just keep getting crazier. The idea of not being able to bring your favorite drink inside the plane and even limiting the amount of toothpaste and hair gel still feels preposterous considering the food and drinks served in economy class if they’re even served at all during short flights. Now it’s gadgets. Just when the myth of electronic interference in mid-air was just getting debunked.
Well, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is no longer alone in the list of items to be checked. Any electronic gadget larger than a smartphone is included in the ban. The US Department of Homeland Security includes laptops, tablets, cameras, portable DVD players, E-Readers and handheld gaming devices. Anyone looking forward to taking their Nintendo Switch with them will have to forget the idea. Bookworms will have to go retro, and anyone wanting to see a good flick will have to bear with the in-flight movie. Who this ban will affect the most are the business types who often do their reports, work on their spreadsheets and presentations in mid-flight. They’ll be bored out of their wits along with everyone else in those up to 12-hour transcontinental flights unless they can make do with their smartphones.
Guess this is where those phablets loaded with Office come in such as Microsoft’s Lumia 950XL, HP Elite X3, Samsung Notes except for the Note 7, iPhone 7Plus and now the Samsung Galaxy S8+. Unless the flight crew or airline security deem those phones to be too large. The problem with these phones, despite having Office installed, is that content creation is too much of a chore because of their small screens. Half of that tiny visual real-estate gets taken over by the virtual keyboard. The best one can do is open, check and answer email because any document, spreadsheet or presentation will at best be viewable only. Despite the installed business apps being as full featured as their counterparts ten or fifteen years ago, they’re still almost useless unless you’re stubborn, determined or desperate to get your work done. Guess Blackberry Passport wins this time round at least for article writers like yours truly. I can write my drafts on my old Blackberry Curve.
But seriously, the situation is unacceptable for business users. Even if they could forego their work, their laptops or tablets run the risk of getting damaged or worse stolen from the cargo hold, and they could lose important work or data. The solution to which is that they can save their work on a USB drive or SD Card. Fortunately, Qatar Airways are willing to let business class passengers borrow loaner laptops loaded with MS Office. Passengers who have the insight of carrying their data in portables can make use of these loaner laptops to continue their work. That is, according to Business Insider. Other airlines might follow suit if the ban gets extended for a long period. And if they do, it would also be a good idea to bring along USB drives equipped with Windows 10’s Windows to Go or any Live Linux distro of your choosing.
For the economy class without loaner laptops, universal foldable keyboards are a good idea for passengers who have to work using their smartphones. Documents, email and spreadsheets should be more manageable using those. Or everyone can just relax, listen to music or just watch a movie on their phones. Just be happy there won’t be any fake laptops or tablets that could split the plane in two. Thank the terrorists for saving them from work.