Mobile devices and changes to airport security

Source: Flight Center

These days, nearly everyone travels with electronic devices like mobile phones, tablets, e-
book readers, laptops, digital cameras and portable music players. Effective immediately, travellers passing through airport security may be asked to turn on any electronic or battery- powered device to prove its functionality. If the device doesn’t turn on, it may be confiscated or the passenger may be denied boarding.

With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to make sure all electronic devices are fully charged before leaving home and travellers don’t run the battery flat while in transit or onboard the aircraft. All of these items must also be carried in hand-luggage only.

Why are these changes happening?

The extra security measures have been implemented due to concerns about a heightened terrorism threat to aviation, particularly concerning flights to, from or via the United States and United Kingdom. Electronic devices are being targeted by security as they have the potential to be concealed as hidden explosives. At present, the Terrorism Alert Level for Australia remains unchanged.

What destinations will be affected?

Flights to, from and via the United States and United Kingdom will be impacted by these heightened security measures, including stopovers through Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Specific routes have not been announced to maintain security but any airline or destination may be subject to these new security restrictions.

Domestic flights within Australia are not affected at this stage, but there is the potential for these changes to be rolled out to a wider range of destinations, so every traveller should be aware of these new rules.

What airlines will be affected?

For Australian travellers, the main airlines that will be impacted by these new rules include Qantas, Virgin Australia and others such as Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, British Airways, Delta, United Airlines and all other carriers that fly to, from or via the UK and USA.

These extra security procedures should be kept in mind when factoring in travel time, as they may potentially lead to longer queues or delays, especially at major airports such as London Heathrow where these new rules will be focused.

What happens if the device has a flat battery?

If passengers cannot prove that their device functions as normal, there is a strong chance they will not be allowed to fly, the item will be confiscated and/or they will undergo additional screening. Chargers and power adaptors should be kept on hand to avoid this happening.

While most airports and airline lounges have power outlets to charge devices, they can be limited and travellers should not rely on these being available to them.

What about items held in checked luggage?

Another part of these new security measures is requiring travellers to take any items that use lithium batteries in their carry-on luggage. If items such as laptops or cameras are packed in checked luggage, passengers may be called to security at the airport and asked to remove the device, turn it on, and keep it with them in the cabin once they have proven it works as normal.

What devices are impacted by these changes?

All electronic devices (especially those using lithium batteries, as well as mains-powered devices) will be affected, including mobile phones, laptops, tablets, e-book readers, digital cameras and portable music players.

Will people still be able to use these devices onboard?

Yes, everyone should be able to use their devices onboard the aircraft as they normally would and as per the cabin crews’ advice. Travellers should take care to ensure they do not drain the battery power whilst on board or in transit.

What happens if the traveller has just bought a new device at Duty Free?

Most new electronic devices have enough pre-charge on them to be switched on straight away, so it should be easy to prove their functionality. However, the item and its packaging may still require further examination at security checkpoints.

Are these changes permanent?

At this stage, it is uncertain whether the increase security rules will stay in place or if they will only exist temporarily.

What do we need to remember?

• Ensure all mobile / electronic devices have enough battery power to be turned on at security if requested.
• Security may make this request at any airport, not just for those travelling to, from or via the UK or USA.
• Take care to ensure these devices are not drained of power whilst on board the aircraft or while in transit.
• There will be limited opportunities to recharge these devices within airports.
• Devices that cannot be turned on at security may be confiscated or the traveller may be denied boarding.
• Any device that contains a lithium battery must be carried in the traveller’s carry-on luggage