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TSA Bans Uncharged Gadgets on Transatlantic Flights to US

by on July 8, 2014 · 16 comments

in Airline Industry, Travel Industry, Travel Technology, TSA

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If you’re headed to the U.S. on a transatlantic flight, make sure your cell phones, laptops, tablets and more are charged by the time you get to the airport, or you might not be allowed to board with them. As part of the Enhanced Security Measures announced by the Secretary of Homeland Security last week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has instructed security officers in “certain overseas airports” (publicly undisclosed at this time) to test passengers’ electronics; if these gadgets don’t have enough power to turn on, passengers may be asked to charge them before boarding or be required to place them in checked baggage. This directive is thought to be targeted at European and UK airports, but may apply elsewhere.

Uncharged gadgets may now be banned from the cabins of transatlantic flights (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

Per the TSA, powerless gadgets may now be banned from the cabins of transatlantic flights to the US (Image courtesy of Shutterstock).

The TSA isn’t warming any hearts right now, with this announcement coming alongside the plan to increase security fees on July 21, 2014. However, it seems that at least this is in direct response to recent and credible terrorist threats against transatlantic flights to the U.S. involving dead electronic devices being used to conceal bombs. The TSA doesn’t officially have the authority to implement its rules abroad, but UK and European airports might be forced to comply with this powerless gadget ban if the TSA chooses to forbid non-compliant flights to land at US airports.

Security screening may start as early as online check-in, when some passengers may find themselves instructed to complete check-in at the airport and possibly be subjected to an intensive search. I suggest charging your gadgets before you head to the airport in order to avoid being inconvenienced, delayed, or even forced to miss your flight.

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  • hme

    oh goodie!

  • epaminondas3294

    Why do they even bother x-raying our electronics then? Are they admitting their security measures suck?

  • TennilleJChapman

    if these gadgets don’t have enough power to turn on, passengers may be asked to charge them before boarding or be required to place them in checked baggage. This directive is thought to be targeted at European and UK airports, but may apply elsewhere. http://merky.de/893dd8

  • joeypore

    Now an even better reason to carry a portable battery pack with you when traveling…

  • taryn

    “Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.” I read that as meaning they won’t be allowed on the aircraft, period. So you either give up your device or you don’t fly. Someone commenting to this report on another site theorized that a real battery might be replaced with an explosive.

  • taryn

    The TSA notice says “Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.” It doesn’t state any alternative.

  • taryn

    It’s my understanding that x-rays cannot detect plastic explosives. So imagine a phone containing a plastic explosive shaped like a phone battery. I think the power-up test is just another safety measure on top of x-ray. I personally don’t think it’s a big deal. Just make sure you don’t run your devices down before you go through the screening.

  • epaminondas3294

    But if that’s the case, what prevents a terrorist from putting plastic explosives in something else, like a pair of shoes and putting it in his carry-on? It might not sound like a big deal unless it means doubling your time in the security line.

  • iamright

    You are way too logical. I always wondered why a four ounce bottle was NG but two two ounce bottles were OK. These ‘rules’ are designed to inconvenience the good guys to show how ‘smart’ TSA is, while the bad guys can find an easy way around them.

  • Andy Mcewan

    what if your U.S 110v laptop battery expired in U.K and has developed an hard-drive error, as in our circumstances at present the computer only runs on mains electricity and has a black screen error display ,but has 1.000s of pictures and video’s we still want to try to get off the memory ???can this just be placed in checked luggage

  • qs

    And presumably a bomb-maker could supply a small extra battery, as the device just has to power up, not work for three hours as a laptop. Still allowing room for the main battery to be replaced with an explosive device.

  • Santastico

    I already said the solution is to force everyone to board the plane completely naked (no clothes, no shoes) and not allow anything on board. The boarding process would be way faster and the chance of someone bringing anything dangerous on board would be drastically reduced unless they bring inside their body but since everyone will go through X-ray that would also be reduced. Air travel has become a real PITA!!!!

  • John Z

    What I don’t understand, is that if they are doing this, wouldn’t an entire airport be at risk if there is an explosive in a gadget and turned on at the security checkpoint?

  • http://www.CheersandGears.com Oldsmoboi

    Data point: My partner and I just returned to the U.S. via FRA on Tuesday. We were not able to print our boarding passes from our computer and instead were instructed to pick up our boarding passes at check in. Both of us are Global Entry, but my partner got SSSS on his boarding pass.

    They checked his electronics for power and functionality (power on, swipe a few pages, open an app) at check in. My own tablet was checked in a random check at the security screening, I was taken to a small room where they asked it to be powered on, and then they swabbed it for explosives.

    Partner was again stopped for screening at gate check in. He was taken for a pat down, all of his electronics re-checked for functionality.

    Overall the process was smooth, though all of the security lines seemed slower than usual.

    CBP at Charlotte was the same cluster it always is.

  • taryn

    I find it interesting that the TSA statement is vague. It says uncharged devices can’t be brought “onboard”. Do they test devices in checked baggage? I never put electronics in checked baggage.

  • taryn

    Oh sure, there are a million ways to get around this. I suspect that the new rule is coming from some specific threat they overheard. I’m surprised we’re not already forced to wear TSA-approved jumpsuits, flip-flops, and underwear.

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