The real cost of the electronic device ban for corporate travellers and their business

    The impacts of the hastily introduced US and UK ban on certain electronic devices within aircraft cabins are starting to sink in now – and the biggest loser continually appears to be the corporate traveller and business. The loss of productivity and subsequent cost will greatly impact travellers. However this is only the beginning.

    First and foremost, few will disagree that business travel is a necessary evil. Time out of the office, away from family and loved ones is taxing on any individual but essential to the running of certain organisations. Most business travellers have learnt to minimise this evil by ensuring that every waking moment while travelling is capitalised on and work completed. The majority of this occurs while waiting for aircraft departures, transiting, taxiing and in the air.

    Remove this additional time and the traveller is forced to either catch up during personal time or wait until he or she is are back in the office. Either way there is a loss of productivity which impacts both the traveller and the business. Travel decisions such as which airlines to utilise and which routes to travel will now need to factor in this ban.

    If on the off-chance travellers are unable to make up time while back home, this automatically translates into a loss of productivity for the business. The corporate travellers’ time is valuable and limiting access to this directly impacts the business.

    Direct costs to airlines’ corporate business as a result of the ban are easily identified. Travellers will be scrounging around to make changes on already purchased bookings, there will be increased fares for avoiding affected airports and countries, a possible cost for damaged or lost equipment and even increased ancillary costs for travel booked without checked baggage. Rerouting also probably means more time spent travelling.

    There are some bright spots though. Some airlines have now had the time review the ban and put procedures in place to combat these impacts. Emirates released a statement on 24-Mar-2017 announcing a new service for affected passengers travelling to the US via Dubai which allows them to declare and hand over their laptops, tablets and other banned electronic devices to security staff at the gate just before boarding. According to the statement, “devices will be carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination.” This not only limits the time away from devices but will also greatly improve the chance of damaged or lost goods – and, for the airlines, of avoiding false claims for loss of valuable items which are otherwise unverifiable.

    The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) has stated that the new restrictions on services from certain airports “make no sense”, with executive director Greeley Koch pointing out: “Travellers want the best security. But without further explanation, these new restrictions will do nothing but breed further scepticism in government’s perception of business travel”. ACTE president Kurt Knackstedt joined ABC News to discuss the latest restrictions and the impact to travellers.

    Australian and New Zealand travellers don’t seem to be greatly impacted at the moment. But if there is any logic to the US and UK moves, surely other governments will eventually follow suit and extend the ban to travel into Australasia. Australian Federal Minister for Transport Darren Chester said the government would continue to monitor security developments and adjust security settings “if needed”. And the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority anticipates no current threat to NZ, but is monitoring the situation.