The New, Terrifying, No-Electronics US Flight Security Rules

That failed terrorist attack yesterday might make international flights a whole lot less enjoyable. Passengers are reporting that new restrictions are in place, and their severity varies flight to flight. Among the reports, a rumour: No electronics. Updated: Gadgets OK, but restricted!

Again, these are isolated incidents, and there's still no official word from TSA. But in certain instances, some passengers are reporting that electronics usage on inbound US flights is restricted. We'll let you know if an official announcement comes.

The New York Times is reporting that no one will be able to move from their seats during the last hour of flight. That means no bathroom breaks, no accessing carry-on luggage, nothing. When that plane starts descending, you're planted.

Multiple sources, among them Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing, are also reporting that no electronics are allowed during international flights. None. So you can't even play video games or listen to music to distract yourself from how badly you have to pee.

From what we can tell, this is largely restricted to inbound international flights. TSA hasn't made any announcements yet either, so hopefully this is either a temporary measure, or the restrictions will be less severe once the official policy becomes clearer.

So much for using those free in-flight Wi-Fi codes we told you about. [Business Insider, New York Times, @xenijardin]

Image via Bekathwia

Update: According to @charleneli, here's the situation:

New flight rules - Body search, no electronics apply only to int'l flights to US. Just landed in ORD from Canada, missed connection

Update 2: The TSA also released this statement, which seems to confirm that electronics usage policies will be on a case-by-case basis (emphasis added):

"Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in."

Update 3: We've been hearing reports from readers about their experiences under the new flight regulations. The good news is, most of you aren't having problems using your gear. The bad news is there's still no official word from TSA, so your mileage may vary.

Reader Mikkel had this to say:

I arrived in to LAX last night on a British Airways flight. The only time there were restrictions on electronics were (as always) right after takeoff but now also during the last hour of the flight. Other than that, things were pretty normal. What surprised me, was that the airline had disabled the on-board map so we couldn't see where we were. They told us this was by order of the US government.

I got another email from reader Nic saying the same thing about the in-flight map. Here's a third from commenter Beatledud's observations, and his opinion on why the whole "stay seated an hour before landing rule" defeats the purpose of turning off the location tracker:

In the flight most things were normal. We were allowed to use gadgets but they wouldn't tell us how long it would take to get to DC. And while the moving GPS map on my video screen was disabled, the ETA time stamp on how much was left on the journey worked just fine, and it ended up accurate. DUMB.

Oh, and the having to buckle up and stay seated the last hour of the flight? First this seemed counterproductive since they were ATTEMPTING to prevent passengers from knowing when they were almost landing. Giving an hour heads up cancels that out. And they gave us 30 minutes to go to our bags and the bathroom before the hour lock down. And oh, what a lock down it was, I must have seen 30 people still doing whatever 20 minutes in and half a dozen people just get up anyways for the final 40 minutes to use the bathroom, go to their bags, whatever, and that was just where I was sitting.

The pre-boarding chain of events in Beatledud's story featured beefed-up security measures, but it sounds like everything was relatively normal onboard. He's not the only one to have an uneventful flight. Gynranger left this story of his normal sounding domestic travels in the comments:

I few yesterday, just a domestic flight, from New York, NY to Savanna, GA. We were allowed to use electronics but during take off until cruising alt and about 30 minutes before landing they made us shut everything off, including iPods or computers and other devices even those that didnt broadcast.

There have been some cases where in-flight restrictions were more extreme than usual, like this one from reader Arturo:

We flew from Eugene, OR to San Francisco today: they would not even let us read paperback books that we had brought with us. According to them, the new TSA directive is that in the last hour of flight, we are not allowed to leave our seats, nor use or have anything from our carry-on luggage or personal items.

This seems to be the main restriction, that you can't have anything on your lap during the last hour of flight. That's just the word from the airlines, though. As of this writing, TSA still hasn't announced their new guidelines to the public. This is the latest statement up on their page:

Q: What additional security measures are being taken for international flights to U.S. destinations? A: TSA issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for last point of departure international flights to the United States. Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.

So that's what we've been hearing. Again, there hasn't been an official word from TSA. Certain airlines have said that electronics are OK for now, and judging from your stories that seems to be the case. We'll keep an eye on the situation, and we'll try to break the news easy if it turns out you won't be jamming to Miley during the flight home. [TSA, Thanks to everyone who wrote in with their stories]

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