Canadian flight passengers caught up in U.S. ban as Ottawa weighs own rules
Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the government is studying the reasons for the U.S. electronics ban and debating a similar order
MONTREAL—Canadian passengers flying Royal Jordanian Airlines will be affected by a U.S. ban preventing large electronic devices from being stowed in carry-on baggage, the carrier said March 21, even as Canada studies whether to issue a similar order.
Royal Jordanian passengers arriving in Montreal from Amman will be forced to check “any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal-sized mobile or smartphone” effective Friday.
The new U.S. carry-on restriction, which bans such electronics from cabins in flights originating from some countries in the Middle East and Africa, applies to the Jordanian carrier because the flight stops in Montreal on the way to Detroit, the airline said in a news release.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the federal government is studying circumstances behind the U.S. ban—and a similar U.K. ban—but stopped short of saying whether Canada will follow the lead of these two countries.
“We are looking at the information that has been presented to us, we will look at it very carefully,” Garneau said Tuesday after the government’s weekly cabinet meeting.
The U.K. government said it’s imposing the new aviation security measures on all inbound direct flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. government ban affects flights from Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
Industry analyst Robert Kokonis of airline consulting firm AirTrav believes Canada will impose a ban if intelligence suggests there is a legitimate security threat that would impact Canadian travellers.
He said Britain’s decision to impose its own ban likely negates concerns by some that the U.S. government’s action was politically motivated in response to challenges to President Donald Trump’s travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries.
Kokonis said banning large devices from aircraft cabins will be very disruptive to passengers on long flights who use their devices to watch movies and listen to music. The impact could be especially felt by business people who use the many hours in the air to conduct work and whose laptops often contain commercially sensitive information.
“This will be a tough one to swallow,” he said from Calgary.
He estimates a Canadian ban would affect an average of about 2,000 passengers a day that fly to Toronto and Montreal on airlines including Air Canada, Royal Jordanian Airline, Royal Air Maroc, Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir, Saudia, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates.
However, Kokonis cautioned that countries affected by the ban account for a very limited slice of the global aviation system.
“At the end of the day, governments worldwide in the broader aviation industry have to ensure the safety and security of the aviation system and to ensure that passengers continue to have trust in the safety and security of the systems they are flying upon.”
Bruce Cran of the Consumers’ Association of Canada agrees.
“If this is a safety issue then we’ve just got to grin and bear with it for the time being,” he said.
Passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said the ban discriminates against people from a particular religion and regions without necessarily ensuring heightened safety. He said terrorists can simply originate their flights from countries not included on the ban.
“From a passenger experience point of view this is going to be a disaster because passengers are going to arrive and find that their (belongings) have been stolen and it will mean far more expenses for the airline,” he said from Halifax.
Airlines typically urge passengers to carry electronic devices such as laptops into the cabin. The ban would force them to check those belongings, raising the risk they could be stolen.
Lukacs said passengers are eligible for about $2,000 if there electronics are stolen. But he cautioned passengers to have receipts to prove the value and video evidence that they stowed the items in their checked baggage.
He said the best way to approach a real threat is to properly screen all passengers, including testing all items brought on board for explosives.