Justifiable or not, well planned or not, airlines must comply with the electronics ban. While the ban has left affected airlines and their customers reeling and confused, offering premium passengers loaner laptops onboard might soften the sting.
IATA says this electronics ban will affect 2% of travellers to the U.S. and 2.4% of travellers to the UK. These may seem like small percentages of overall travellers, but it is a large group of people traveling from all around the world who would normally connect through major hubs in the Middle East to make air travel more convenient.
One concern is that the ban affects business travellers especially.
Emirates swiftly played up its award-winning in-flight entertainment (IFE) in response to the passenger experience crisis created by this ban.
But IFE entertainment alone might not satisfy the needs of productive flyers who will pay the highest air fares.
Bloomberg published a great article suggesting alternative ways to get work done onboard flights affected by the electronics ban.
I often work on my smartphone in-flight because I find using a laptop at the seat inconvenient. Thanks to advanced apps and cloud syncing, a lot of heavy work can be done on these devices, as the Bloomberg article suggests. For those who cannot fathom writing longer documents with their thumbs, there are handy portable keyboards.
But airlines can appeal to business travellers in these times by offering a loaner laptop onboard.
The rules say that passengers must check their own devices, but they do not restrict the devices an airline may carry to supply to its customers. Setting up a laptop loaner program can be relatively easy. While it’s not an inexpensive solution to the electronics ban, it is certainly less expensive than losing premium passenger revenue.
Customers could bring files they want to work on in-flight loaded on a small USB stick, or in cases of airlines with high-speed Wi-Fi, it may be possible for customers to access files directly on the cloud.
Just as an example, Google Chromebooks are user-friendly, secure and reasonably inexpensive. They might satisfy the productivity needs of many travellers. The software platform is easy for both MacOS users and Windows users to adapt to, with little or no previous training.
Many airlines already offer courtesy desktops at their lounges. This approach is no different. There will be a number of passengers who would welcome an opportunity to work, even if it is not on their own device.
Of course, travellers will know their job restrictions on doing certain types of work on a third-party computer, but personal smartphones can still be used for the most sensitive communications.
If nothing else, this approach will show a willingness to accommodate premium customers inconvenienced by the ban. That willingness alone might be welcome by many.
No doubt, this ban will have unfortunate repercussions for carriers affected and their travellers. But this is also an opportunity to learn the resilience of these hub markets. Location matters. One of the reasons these hubs have grown over the years is that they offer passengers more effective ways to travel around the world: in less time with better service.
Perhaps some business travellers will now fly circuitous routes to get where they are going. Perhaps they will decide that having to work in a different way for a few hours is preferable to multiple connections, through other, less convenient, airports.
Whichever is the case, showing consideration for passengers’ predicament, by offering courtesy laptops or even tablets, could have a positive effect on those airline brands affected.
I’d welcome your comments. Has the electronics ban affected you? How will it impact your travel plans?
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