On March 21, the U.S. government enacted a temporary ban on passengers flying nonstop to the U.S. from eight Arab countries (including Abu Dhabi) from bringing laptops, iPads, cameras and most other electronics in carry-on luggage.
Manson Tung, ‘16, attends New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and plans to travel to the U.S. twice in the next six months.
Q: When were you planning to travel to the U.S.?
A: In late May I fly back. Then I go back to the UAE in late June, before returning to the U.S. for a few weeks in late July.
Q: How is the ban going to affect you?
A: It really sucks. When I was flying home over winter break, I hadn’t finished my final, which was a group project. I did it on the plane because they had complimentary wifi on Etihad (Airways).
If this ban had been in effect then, I would’ve been screwed.
And I just got a new laptop. I don’t want to have to check it in where it could be stolen or damaged. Emirates now has a feature where you can store your laptop in a secure place at the loading gate and get it back immediately after landing.
But that’s still inconvenient, and I fly Etihad.
Q: Are there alternative options you could take?
A: Actually I’m considering flying to Hong Kong first then coming to the U.S. But that’s still extra time and money that I have to spend.
Q: If you do have to fly nonstop to the U.S., what are you going to do without your laptop?
A: I’ll probably just try to sleep now. It’s such a long flight (16-17 hour flight time) that you eat, sleep and watch TV multiple times.
Q: How did you feel when you first found out about the ban?
A: I was in Macao (China) when I first heard about (it), and I was completely shocked. It’s ridiculous for two reasons.
First, Abu Dhabi has a TSA Precheck clearance. That means that we have TSA and customs agents from the U.S. stationed in Abu Dhabi. So we land just like any other domestic flight. It makes no sense that we qualify for the Precheck, but can be deemed as a terrorist threat!
Q: What’s the other reason?
A: (According to the travel ban) you can travel from Somalia to Ethiopia to Nigeria to Washington, D.C. That’s crazy! Those countries pose much larger threats than us. But apparently it’s not safe to fly from the UAE to the U.S.
Q: Some publications have quoted U.S. officials saying the ban is due to security purposes; do you believe this?
A: No, it’s so clearly business war. We talked about it in our Introduction to International Politics class. This will wreck the (Persian Gulf) airlines’ (Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways) business traveler segment.
These airlines make most of their money from business travelers, and they’re going to want to be able to work during their flights. But they can’t do that without their laptops.
And Donald Trump has met with the CEOs of the major American airlines, and they’ve said that he is going to do good things for them.
For example, now instead of flying straight to the U.S. on Etihad, I might take Etihad to Hong Kong. And then take an American airline, like United, to the U.S.
Q: So you really don’t think the ban has anything to do with security?
A: Not at all. We have one of the most technologically advanced airports; there’s no reason to think it would be more unsafe than other airports.
If it were for security reasons, every flight leaving the region would be affected, no matter where it stopped first before arriving in the U.S.
—By Adam Dean