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United Arab Emirates-based airline Emirates has introduced a tablet loan service for business and first class passengers travelling on its 112 weekly non-stop US-bound flights from Dubai, as it seeks to mitigate the impact of the US government ban on tablets and laptops being taken on board aircraft in cabin baggage on Middle Eastern routes.
The ban on devices larger than a smartphone was introduced at short notice by the US Department of Homeland Security in March, with the British government following suit a few days later, although the UK’s ban targets some different countries and airlines.
The controversial action was criticised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which said it was an unacceptable long-term solution, and risked creating commercial distortions in the aviation sector.
In response, Emirates, which had already introduced a service that enabled passengers to use their devices beyond security and right up to the gate, where they are surrendered to airline staff to be securely packed and placed in the cargo hold, has now gone a step further.
Passengers taking advantage of the free service will receive Microsoft Surface tablets equipped with Office 2016, so that they can download their work onto a USB drive that can be brought on board and plugged in to continue working.
So far, Emirates said around 8,000 passengers have taken advantage of its laptop and tablet handling service – which is also available to Economy class passengers – and said it had seen a good mix of passengers using it.
The airline said it wanted to give passengers travelling between Dubai and the US several options, and pointed out that smartphone users could still take advantage of mobile connectivity using its cabin Wi-Fi as normal.