Emirates responded to the recent ban on electronics in the main cabin on some of its flights with what could be a customer service coup.
The Dubai-based airline announced this week that it will be loaning out Microsoft Surface tablets to First and Business Class passengers on affected nonstop U.S.-bound flights from its hub airport—for free. The tablets will have the Microsoft Office 2016 suite of software for continued productivity while in transit. Emirates says that passengers should download their work to a personal USB drive, which can be brought into the main cabin and plugged into the loaner tablets.
The tablet program complements Emirates' laptop and handling service, another free program put in place since the electronics band went into effect in March. Under this program—available to passengers in all cabins on U.S.-bound flights—customers can hand over laptops, tablets, or any other electronics not allowed in the main cabin for tagged check-in at the boarding gate upon departure. The devices are then handed back over to the customers upon arrival in the United States.
Emirates says that nearly 8,000 passengers have used this handling service on 112 weekly nonstop flights between Dubai and U.S. destinations.
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The U.S. Government issued a security directive in late March, banning all personal electronics larger than a smartphone in the main cabin on flights between 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa to certain destinations in North America. The U.K. followed suit, although several other European countries have dissented.
The Department of Homeland Security has not provided an explanation or reason for the sudden change, although there has been speculation ranging from fake iPad plots to concerns about terrorists replicating airport security screening technology.
Without evidence to point to, the ban has drawn criticism. Most recently, the CEO of Qatar Airways, which has also implemented a laptop loan program in response—argued that terrorists would still be able to get around the ban just by traveling from cities not impacted by it.
The electronics ban is still in place, indefinitely.