Laptop bans on flights to the UK cause confusion amongst airport staff

Airport staff have not been properly briefed on what is and what is not prohibited

In 2016 I visited Jordan for an NGO documenting the seriousness of the refugee crisis sparked by the Syrian war. My visit was relatively straightforward, no complications of security were in place to limit carry-on returning to the UK. Fast forward one year and new rules for what can and cannot be stored as cabin baggage has increased confusion amongst stewards and airport personnel.

Arriving to Amman airport I began check-in protocol and was asked by staff if I had any laptops to declare. I replied it was stowed in my luggage and that I was carrying two hard drives and cameras. “No no, you must take those out and place them in your luggage” I denied his request showing him restrictions from the UK government website to which he nodded his head, waving me on. At the first security point my colleague was stopped and his camera checked, I wasn’t. At the second check, my cameras were inspected with an explosive detector and was passed, though my air blower was confiscated and destroyed in front of me. Unbelievable, as it was classified as a potential weapon.

At the third point I passed with flying colours until I came to my gate and the confusion started. One man working for security called for his colleague shouting the only word I could understand “camera” pointing to my bag. Three men crowded round my cameras talking amongst themselves in Arabic but not to me as I waved my press pass in their faces as much as I could. They attempted to lift my bag with the cover open to which I said “no”. Closing the bag and carrying it myself I walked to where they wanted me to sit. They placed a fragile label on the bag and I was still none the wiser as to what was happening. When they had finished I got up and aimed for the boarding gate. The guard pulled me by my bag and said “no”. A woman approached and said “You must leave your bag here” I asked why to which she replied “Please you must leave your bag here”. After arguing for a while, making my feelings clear they decided I wasn’t worth the commotion and let me board the plane with my work tools.

The UK government’s website clearly explains only laptops, tablets and mobile devices larger than 16.0cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm are banned from flights heading toward the United Kingdom. Cameras are allowed.

Now, there are several problems with the ban itself considering the confusion created among airport personnel when taking into account the US ban which is marginally different. The main flaw in this ‘security measure’ is security itself.

If you are a member of the press, take your press card and get a letter from the government of the country you are visiting to show airport personnel as this will make it easier for you and avoid much-unneeded stress.

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