Tuesday, May 2, 2017

There are several ways to skin a cat and you don’t need a sledge hammer to crack a nut; or so the sayings go.

The hot news in the travel world is that with almost immediate effect, passengers travelling to the USA and the UK from ten airports in the middle east (assuming Istanbul is back in the middle east), will not be allowed to carry any large electronic device such as a laptop or iPad in their hand luggage. Phones will still be allowed to be carried however.

The implication is of course that security is at the forefront for this decision with intelligence officials concerned that explosive devices are being designed to be carried inside laptops and by association, that the listed airports are “not secure’”.

When one considers that Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, three brand new and ultra modern airports with the latest security technology and home to three of the world’s top airlines i.e. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar are included in the list, it begs the question as whether or not less secure airports might also be included? It should also be noted that in Abu Dhabi, people travelling to the USA are screened on departure by US immigration and US customs making their long flight akin to a domestic USA flight! If Abu Dhabi has been given this endorsement how can it suddenly be one of the least secure airports in the world? Is Lagos in Nigeria where direct flights to the USA and UK operate any less secure? Not at all. This is however only the start of the fun!

There is nothing to stop a potential terrorist going from any of the named airports via say Rome, Paris or Amsterdam with his tampered with laptop or iPad in his hand luggage and he/she can even connect onto wherever they want and even onto an American plane to maximize the mayhem. Also, if something evil can be smuggled into electronics such as an iPad, it can almost certainly be smuggled into a telephone! Also how big is a telephone these days as there is a blurred line between a telephone and a tablet! How do ‘’book readers’” such as kindles fit into the ruling? Also, if laptops and ipads can do massive amounts of harm then they can make as much effect or damage if they are in the hold of the plane! Remember the Lockerbie attack; the plane downed by an exploding radio stored in a suitcase. Substitute radio nowadays for laptop and the same result ensues. Does this mean then that x-ray scanners of suitcases are stricter than those conducted on passenger’s hand luggage – not a chance. Hiding things of any description is likely to be far easier in a suitcase than on ones personal belongings.

The rise and onward and upward rise of Gulf airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar has been achieved amidst the accusation from – in particular – American carriers who say their rivals receive state aid which they deem illegal. Not forgetting, which the Americans do, that state aid to US based airlines over the decades has amounted to tens of billions of dollars when US airlines repeatedly went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, often more than once. The past couple of years have seen these accusations gain in their intensity and prior to the recent US election; airlines bosses were begging the new government to take action against the proliferation of the gulf carriers which was again starting to threaten the business of the American owned carriers. Not long after the new President was elected he met with the vociferous airline bosses, who after the meeting were noticeably and unusually quiet with their opinions on how the meeting had gone. There did seem however a degree of smugness with their new friend.

Stopping passengers from carrying laptops et al means that those people from whom the airlines derive the most money i.e. first and Business Class passengers are deprived from working on board a flight and deprived from the quick getaway they yearn for on arrival at their destination. Business people pay a premium to conduct business and it is these premium passengers who are most likely to vote with their feet and move to other non-affected airlines and/or routes to enable them to keep their prized possessions with them at all times. By taking away this valuable source of income either from direct or indirect traffic you are also massively impacting or disrupting a business model; the business model of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar; who thrive and indeed depend on premium paying passengers. A warning or an attack?

There are several ways to skin a cat and you don’t need a sledge hammer to crack a nut.

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