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May 27, 2019

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Why airlines might eventually see the laptop ban as an opportunity

Marielle Segarra May 19, 2017
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Qatar Airways will lend laptops to business customers.
AFP/Getty Images

In March, the Department of Homeland Security banned laptops from the cabins of flights coming from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Now, the agency is reportedly considering expanding the ban to all international flights.

The Middle Eastern airlines already dealing with the laptop ban are finding workarounds. Etihad and Qatar airlines are lending laptops and tablets to business customers. Emirates is checking customer laptops at the very last minute. And it’s all for free.

“At this point, they’re just in damage control mode,” said Seth Kaplan, an analyst at Airline Weekly. “You’ve got the travel industry putting out dire predictions about what this could do to the industry, you know, billions of dollars in lost business.”

But airlines are nothing if not resilient. And they might see a broader ban as an opportunity to win the loyalty of business customers, a big driver of profits, said Samuel Engel from the consulting firm ICF.

“Right? If we do a better job of meeting the customer’s needs, then we make more money than our competitor,” Engel said.

He said airlines might eventually take pity on the people in coach. For a price. 

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