The ban on electronic items including laptops and cameras on flights to the United States via the Gulf countries will hit passengers from Kerala hard. Business travelers and those who fly with their families will be affected by the blanket ban.
The easiest route from Kerala to the United States is through West Asia. More than 400 services operate from Dubai, Doha and other West Asian airports from Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode every week. Connection flights to most of the U.S. cities are available from the West Asian airports.
Airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad offer services to the United States which are cheaper and faster compared to other operators. Travel time to the United States from Kerala averages around 13 hours on these flights.
The passengers will have nothing to do for 13 hours once the ban comes into effect. Many of the services start early in the morning and reach their U.S. destinations in the afternoon. Business travelers and professionals could finish a lot of their work during this time. They will be forced to take rest for around 13 hours because of the ban on electronic items such as laptops and iPads in cabin baggage.
This inconvenience is not limited to business travelers. Most of the travelers usually rely on their devices to watch a movie during the long haul or keep the children busy with video games.
Travelers from Kerala are left with two options if they wanted to remain connected. They could go to Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai or Delhi, from where they could board flights to the United States with stopovers in London, Paris or other European cities. This itinerary will cost them at least 24 hours. The ticket cost will also go up.
Europe is well connected to the United States as American airlines such as American, United and Delta have partnerships with their European counterparts including British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France. Even Air India has direct flights to the United States from Delhi and Mumbai. But the choice will be limited.
Another option is to fly to Singapore and board a connection flight via Taipei or Tokyo. Naturally, the travel time and ticket rates will be on the higher side.
The U.S. ban on electronic items will affect the airlines operating out of the Gulf region. The U.S. airlines have been complaining that the Gulf companies have been undercutting them by offering lower ticket rates.
The logic behind the ban on electronic goods on flights from the Gulf region is hard to understand. Do the authorities consider the Islamabad or Kabul airports safer than the Dubai or Doha airports?
Another matter of concern is the safety of valuable and fragile devices left to the rough handling along the check-in baggage.
A majority of travelers to the United States from Kerala are technology professionals. This ban takes away valuable time from the technology sector in Kerala.
(The writer is the executive chairman of IBS)