Travel ban: why you shouldn't pack your laptop in your luggage
Electronics travel ban sparks insurance queries
The recently announced ban on electronics in airline cabins has triggered mass queries for travellers around the world.
The ban will officially prohibit the use of certain electronics on board flights on route to the United States and the United Kingdom from regions in the Middle East and North Africa. While no restriction has yet been imposed in Australia those stopping over in Middle Eastern regions on their way to the US and UK will be affected.
Why is there a device ban?
Electronic devices larger than the size of a "normal" mobile phone pose a threat to flight security, according the US Department of Homeland Security.
Which devices are banned?
Devices that are not allowed in the cabin include all laptops, all tablets, e-readers, cameras, electronic game units larger than a smartphone, portable DVD players and large phones. The new rule applies to mobile phones, laptops, iPads or tablets over 16cm in length, 9.3cm in width and with a depth of over 1.5cm.
However, if you have a medical condition that requires you to bring a larger device on board for your health, it may be allowed after extra screening.
Who will be affected?
Anyone flying out from certain Middle Eastern and North African countries to the US or UK will be affected. The most popular airport on the list is Abu Dhabi.
However in terms of individual travellers, those with young children or business commitments will likely be most sorely affected by the gadget ban.
With tablets and laptops no longer a viable means of entertaining small children or tackling work assignments, long-haul flights may seem considerably longer.
Will travel insurance cover checked-in electronics?
To the average Aussie skimming over their travel insurance policy, one could be excused for believing that their devices would be covered by their travel insurance.
However, more conscientious travellers will discover that nearly all policies have a general exclusion relating to transporting goods in the cargo hold. Printed in plain black and white is usually an exclusion to the effect of "loss, theft or damage to jewellery and electronics are not covered if they are transported in the cargo hold".
Therefore, checked-in electronic devices such as laptops and tablets would not be covered by travel insurance. Unlike carry-on belongings, laptops or electronic items stored in the hold of an airplane are considered the airline's responsibility, not the insurer's.
For items lost, stolen or damaged while in the airline's care, customers should seek compensation from the airline before seeking reimbursement from their travel insurer.
Nevertheless, given the current airline reforms, new provisions are being made to accommodate affected travellers.
Travel insurers' response
While the new restrictions have no doubt inconvenienced travellers reliant on their electronics, travel insurers have been quick on the case, revising their policies in light of the electronics ban.
While "unattended items" are generally not covered, travel insurance company 1Cover has tweaked its policies so that checked-in electronics will in fact be covered.
Richard Warburton, chief operating officer at 1Cover Travel Insurance, says: "The most important thing for us as a market leader is to provide superior care and peace of mind to our customers. Often this means making amendments to our policies to stay in line with what's happening in the world."
In addition to 1Cover, soon-to-be-launched Zoom travel insurance will cover checked-in electronics when the airline requires you to check these items in.
What else should I know?
In addition to travel insurers providers being quick to respond to the unfortunate change in travel conditions, Section 54 of the Insurance Contracts Acts has consumers covered too.
Listed under this Act are circumstances where insurers cannot refute claims as per the following:
- The act was necessary to protect the safety of a person or to preserve property; or
- It was not reasonably possible for the insured or other person not to do the act;
Due to the enforcement of the electronics ban as a security measure, this document would place the consumer in good stead to refute a claim denial should the occasion arise.
Airlines are also adamant that the gadget restrictions should not hold travellers to ransom. Two airlines - Qatar and Emirates - have introduced new measures to "beat the ban". Emirates "laptop and tablet handling service" will allow travellers to use their gadgets until they board the aircraft while Qatar will loan free laptops to business travellers.
It may be of comfort to know that despite increasingly stringent safety measures, those in the industry are well aware of their customers' requirements. Travellers should remain entitled to a high quality experience and insurers and airlines are doing their best to adapt to the new restrictions.
How to keep your electronics secure
In terms of keeping belongings secure it's advisable that travellers use reasonable caution and take a close look at their travel insurance policies.
Check limits and any excess that may apply; the cheapest may not always be the best option for your trip. Assess what items you're taking away with you and specify any high value items you must take.
As a final note, travellers should be encouraged to keep a close eye on their belongings, particularly those of a high value. If possible, consider leaving more expensive electronics behind or, if they are essential, make sure your travel insurer is up to date on these new reforms.