America / Europe / Foreign Policy / Gov. Officials / National Security / Technology

Charge It or Lose It: TSA Bans Uncharged Devices from Flights to the US

TSA Employee Checking DevicesTravelers everywhere, we need to add yet another thing to our international travel checklist: charge your mobile devices. While likely already part of a flier’s to-do list, it is now far more imperative; earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), part of the US Department of Homeland Security, announced that powerless devices will not be allowed on commercial aircraft departing for the US from certain undisclosed locations.

The official statement reads: “As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”

Although the Department of Homeland Security has not yet provided a specific rationale behind this new policy, many believe it stems from US intelligence of a potential plot to down a flight to the US using explosives smuggled aboard hidden in a laptop, tablet computer or smartphone. Concerns chiefly arise regarding the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamist Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, which security officials believe have been plotting to take down an airliner.

Last week, US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned that certain additional security measures were forthcoming for “certain overseas airports with direct flights into the United States.” He also said, “We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and are consulting the aviation industry. We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible.”

Additionally, these policies are not limited to the US-bound flights, as the UK Department for Transport says that “in line with US advice,” passengers flying in and out of the UK may be asked to show that their mobile devices are powered or they can be barred from the flight.

In the US, this policy took effect last Monday, July 7th. So what exactly does this mean if your phone is uncharged at the gate? Well, it depends on your airline. British Airways says while travelers adjust to the new rule, it will cover the costs of shipping dead phones and other devices. This is a softened version of their original policy, which would have barred customers from flights if any of their mobile devices were dead. Virgin Atlantic says “customers can leave it with the airline at the airport but the customer will be responsible for all costs to have it returned to them.” And American, the world’s largest airline, said fliers with uncharged devices can either choose to mail the device at the airport, rebook it on a later flight for no fee, or discard it. And even after you have chosen one of these options, travelers that entered security with uncharged devices may be required to go through additional security procedures.

Although Johnson stated they are working to keep these new policies from causing large disruptions, this does not seem entirely possible. On the other hand, this new policy may not be bad news for everyone. Retailers of portable chargers, like Mophie(the leading power supply manufacturers for mobile devices) can rejoice, as their sales are almost sure to climb as a result of this new policy. Mophie recently tweeted: “Worried about the new ‪#‎TSA‬ guidelines? Nah. ‪#‎mophielife‬

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