back to article Australia considers joining laptops-on-planes ban

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the nation is considering signing up for the laptops-on-planes ban imposed by the United States and United Kingdom. Speaking after announcing a national ship-building plan, Turnbull responded to a question about the ban and said “the government is aware of the changes that …

  1. CentralCoasty

    I can see something good out of this.... it might actually finally kill off Jetstar! (or at least get them to grow up).

    Ok back in the 90's etc we were happy with a single screen at the front of the cabin and we all watched the same show - but these days we are used to having our own personalised entertainment. Jetstar's "no-frills" flights are nothing but a reversion to the basics - but if we cant even have our laptops on them then they will really suffer.

    For the cheap-flights to Bali & other holiday locations - I can just imagine the noise when families get told they cant take the electronic baby-sitter on the flight with them - those families will either not go or pay the extra and fly with an airline that does provide a full service... then there is the "business" linkage in/out of Singapore, Hong Kong & the rest of Asia - I think there are more laptops on those flights than there are seats! What are they going to do?

    Of course none of this worries the politicians - most of them couldnt even turn a computer on by themselves... and sitting up in first class/business class they get all the entertainment (and booze) they want..... (oh and I doubt if any of them ever travel Jetstar outside of Australia).....

    1. ITS Retired

      You hit on the problem

      Politicians don't use computers. That is what their staff is for.

      As far as most politicians are concerned computers are devils tool because leaks of their malfeasance are leaked and spread by computers.

      Never mind the many business uses in flight. Or just keeping. The owner with games and movies sane during long flights.

      If it boot up in the TSA line, it should be good to go. There isn't a whole lot of spare room inside a laptop for anything else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You hit on the problem

        Back in 2014 I travelled to the USofA. I had my rather large 17inch laptop with me.

        One of the agents asked if I minded turning it on, within seconds I had unzipped the bag, lifted the lid, hit the power button and typed in my password. He looked at me a bit puzzled "wow, that was quick". "What do you mean"? I asked. He briefly explained that it took most people several minutes to get their laptop out, turn it on and make it boot and that he was amazed it could be done in under 30 seconds.

        However, this ban is a silly, stupid pointless exercise that has nothing to do with "security" but has everything to do with just getting us to conform to their rules. The "nudge" principal in effect.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "There isn't a whole lot of spare room inside a laptop"

        Replacing the big battery with a much smaller one seems like the obvious evil mod. Or would replacing an internal DVD drive be even more obvious?

        I think the issue with electronic devices is:

        * They have space inside for hiding stuff.

        * They cannot easily be inspected by taking them apart and putting them back together again.

        * An X-ray image of one is full of complexity so a human cannot tell from looking at it whether the internals have been modified or something has been added.

        Wasn't one aircraft brought down by a modified Toshiba "Bomb Beat 453"? Someone had a sense of humour...

        Perhaps "AI" plus a huge database could be used to recognise whether an electronic device has an unusual modification...

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: You hit on the problem

        "If it boot up in the TSA line, it should be good to go. There isn't a whole lot of spare room inside a laptop for anything else."

        Replace half the battery with explosive perhaps? Or even just add enough explosives to smash the battery and release all it's stored energy at once.

        It might not make a huge explosion, but there'll definitely be fire.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      I noticed on Friday that my employer has now removed Business/Premium Class as an option for all travel. Now all translatlantic flights are to be done after work in the UK, so that you arrive in New York early evening and are ready to work the next day in New York. Thus no need to use the laptop on the flight. Given that my employer is one of the largest in the UK (200k+ staff) I would hazard that this must be a major dent in any airline's income.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge

    Now showing

    Young Malcolm is in dire need of a distraction, good old security theater to the rescue!

    How are those polls going?

    1. dan1980

      Re: Now showing


      While I agree with you that Malcolm is indeed in need of some news to distract the media, that doesn't necessarily mean that this is 'security theater'.

      Real threats must be taken seriously and the recent fall-out in the US over Trump's reported disclosure of top secret information about these threats* shows that the intel upon which these bans are based is more than idle speculation.

      To date, it is generally believed that laptop-based bombs would likely be found it they went through the more sophisticated screening procedures at major airports but one must ask the question: why now? When a laptop bomb has already been used over a year ago what has changed?

      Given the penchant for knee-jerk 'doing something' reactions in the US and UK, I am inclined to believe that there really is a strong intel basis for the bans they have implemented as the delay between a proven attack and this response indicates that they didn't just jump as soon as there was a visible potential threat.

      But that penchant for 'security theater' also means their credibility is lacking. But, again, the delay and targeted nature of the current bans for the US and UK makes me more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. This time.

      * - Even if that disclosure was warranted - Russians are, after all, also being targeted by IS terrorists.

      1. Winkypop Silver badge

        Re: Now showing

        No down votes from me, but I still think these 'things' are mere grist for the mill.

        We are being played.

        1. dan1980

          Re: Now showing


          Yes, I expected the down-votes.

          I am all for being (highly) skeptical and anyone familiar with my posting on this site would know that I strongly favour freedom over security and am extremely critical of - as you rightly call it - "security theatre".

          BUT, the simple truth is that there are threats to our safety and some of those threats require security responses to mitigate. The questions we have to ask are, first: how credible are the threats and, second: what measures are suitable to combat them.

          As citizens, we should be skeptical and critical of alleged threats and proposed security responses but that doesn't mean that every such threat and response is false and merely 'security theatre'.

          One thing I feed into the equation when I attempt to evaluate issues like this is how popular the move would be. In this instance, the new regulations are getting large amounts of negative coverage in the US and UK and they are - understandably - unpopular with passengers.

          This is an unpopular move that will cause real disruptions so I feel that, if it is a distraction, it's a poorly chosen one.

          1. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: Now showing

            Mathematics make it all security theatre

            Will need a lot of successful terror attacks to make flights as risky as the drive to the airport, and even more to make a single flight anything like as risky as average annual mileage in a car

            Infrequent air incidents gets lots of media coverage, extremely common vehicle driver / passenger / pedestrian deaths normally do not.

          2. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Now showing

            BUT, the simple truth is that there are threats to our safety and some of those threats require security responses to mitigate. The questions we have to ask are, first: how credible are the threats and, second: what measures are suitable to combat them.

            No, those aren't the questions we have to ask.

            The questions we have to ask is:

            What are the likely deaths per year of these attacks?

            What level of cost/inconvenience is justified based on the answer to the above question?

            In the US, in 2010, 32k people died in car crashes alone.

            That's more US people, in 1 year, than have ever died, total, in all the terror attacks that involve US citizens in the history of the world, combined.

            Yet people still drive cars.

            There is no such thing as perfect safety. It's a balance between an acceptable level of risk vs an acceptable level of cost/inconvenience.

            If 5 terror attacks, using laptops as bombs, occur over the next 5 years killing 500 people, worldwide, I would say that would still not be sufficient reason to enact these measures.

            We all accept a measure of risk every day in our lives, driving, taking public transport, hell, more people have probably died on the toilet from defecation syncope as have died in terror attacks (outside war zones/civi unrest countries).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Now showing

              "If 5 terror attacks, using laptops as bombs, occur over the next 5 years killing 500 people, worldwide, I would say that would still not be sufficient reason to enact these measures." - easy for you to say, as long as none of those deaths were members of your family or close friends.

  3. MondoMan

    theft's the issue, not boredom

    Smartphones are plenty to keep most occupied during flights -- it's the likelihood of theft of laptops from checked luggage that's the real issue.

    Delta's baggage policy, for one, notes: "Computers or computer-related equipment are not allowed as checked baggage. You can, of course, bring your laptop computers as carry-on."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: theft's the issue, not boredom

      Moreover the ban extends to other expensive equipment. My camera gear is far more expensive than laptop and phone, and more delicate. I would have less issues in checking the latter (which is fully encrypted)) than my cameras and lenses. I would prefer to have to replace 2K of laptop than 12k of photo equipment.

      1. Chet Mannly

        Re: theft's the issue, not boredom

        Same boat here - couldn't give a hoot about my laptop, I can pick up a cheap one in next to no time to get me through the trip, but try finding an insurance company that will cover $15k of photography gear when its checked in and handed over to the wreckers and thieves more commonly referred to as baggage handlers.

  4. the Jim bloke Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Have any of the idiots promoting this drivel spoken to the airlines

    For a trial of effectiveness, lets impose the restrictions on politicians and senior public servants for a year first.

    Sadly, getting their gear nicked or broken isnt a hardship for them, and data theft is business-as-usual for them. Depriving them of technology will probably make the world a better place.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Have any of the idiots promoting this drivel spoken to the airlines

      No, do not restrict them.

      Just make them sit _ABOVE_ the hold where the laptops are.

      Lithium battery containing equipment is prohibited for traveling in the hold for a very good reason.

    2. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: Have any of the idiots promoting this drivel spoken to the airlines

      We had issues here in Oz when one of the senior ministers was selected to go through the full body scanners. Scanners that her and her party voted for with a law that offered no opt out clauses, no limits on future technology and no requirements that the machines be safe or effective. Oddly enough her party then joined the government at the time in a round of applause when the bill passed so something wasn't on the level. I agree with Jim, we should not only be imposing the same restrictions on politicians and senior public servants, they should be first in line every time to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their actions.

      Another interesting thing about the scanners is they are crewed by private contractors, not border farce (public servants). Government perhaps hedging their bets in case the scanners aren't as safe as the US vendor assured them.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And in other news,

    Airline stocks tumbled today as the effect of banning Laptops and Tablets in the cabin starts to be felt.

    Business people are just not travelling as much as they did last year. Airlines rely on the Business Class passenger to make the icing on the cake in the business.

    Even long haul tourist flights are seeing a downturn.

    As a result some airlines are not taking up options on new aircraft, reducing frequency on routes and planning on laying off staff. Some support companies are already reducing the size of their workforce[1]

    All because of a possibility????

    [1]I'll be getting my P.45 in 6 weeks time.

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: And in other news,

      I'll be getting my P.45 in 6 weeks time.

      For non-British people out there: This is not a gun. It is a tax form for the end of an employment.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: And in other news,

      I travelled many hundreds of times on business before the internet thingy. I think maybe 1% of those trips would be necessary in the www world. I may be able to work on the plane but no where near as well as at home and definitely not at the airport or on the way to and from. Its nice to get away paid for but I much prefer to have a proper holiday I paid for.

      Like many government travel policies this will cause more damage to air travel than it causes - people will learn to avoid travelling and that it is in fact more cost efficient not too.

      Mind you its not as bad as the 6000 lives a year wasted in extra security since 9/11.

      1. LaeMing Silver badge

        Re: And in other news,

        And any people who is less likely to travel is less likely to notice how shitty their own country is compared to others. It is a big win for many Governments and their corporate sponsors.

    3. Paul

      Re: And in other news,

      really? UAL don't look too bad over 6 months

  6. Ben 54

    I don't take my laptop in the cabin to work on it nor for entertainment. I do it since I had stuff stolen from my baggage before and had a Gibson guitar broken which were checked in as fragile.

  7. Marcus Fil

    Airliners are for vacations

    ..for everything else there is Skype*.

    Airline shares? Sell,Sell,SELL

    *Other video conferencing facilites are available - choose whose encryption you trust.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Airliners are for vacations

      Yes, Skype for consumers is about as untrustworthy as it gets. I like the Signal one, although I think I picked up that Telegram now had it too. Not sure, must check*

      * Side effect of my work: I have most of them installed :).

    2. mathew42

      Re: Airline shares? Sell,Sell,SELL

      > Airline shares? Sell,Sell,SELL

      I suggest buy, buy, buy for manufacturers of sturdy luggage. Of course that doesn't solve the problem of TSA master keys and theft.

      When I first started flying long haul, one habit was to buy a second hand paperback fo read on the flight. It might be a tradition I return to.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Airline shares? Sell,Sell,SELL

        When I first started flying long haul, one habit was to buy a second hand paperback fo read on the flight. It might be a tradition I return to.

        I never travel anywhere without my Kindle. I get daily Bookbub offers, and just on the free and $0.99 offers alone I now have some 500+ fiction books to read. I ought to stop collecting by now :).

  8. MartinB105

    I'm not flying without my entertainment

    I'm lucky enough to be in the position where I've only travelled to the US for holidays in the last few years, and I can just take it or leave it.

    If I can't use my Gear VR or PlayStation Vita on a flight, then I won't be on that flight. I guess it's time for me to consider other options... Tokyo next year then. :)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just want reciprocity..

    I just want the US to share our experience, and given that we find their fingers in many nefarious acts I think that is entirely justified. They can't blame the rest of the world for being just as cautious.

    I'd like random searches for all Americans, but no profiling other than rednecks, politicians and Silicon Valley executives earning more than $200k/annum for whom this should be a default, also because we often find them involved in dodgy dealings with Intellectual Property and patents. Best copy their harddisks, or lock them up if they don't want to share.

    We should have their passwords, install spyware on their hardware and perform as many anal probes as we can get away with - after all, they have apparently a long and rich association between aliens and anal probing and I'd genuinely love to give their politicians the finger(s) they deserve.

    Once we have their phone idents, we should track them and border control should grab them again some 50km away from the airport and repeat the search, preferably just before they go into important meetings.

    The benefits should be obvious: large amounts of unskilled workers get work where they can amuse themselves without any risk of repercussions, EU/UK companies get government pork like the US do for supplying those people and rubber gloves (the whole reason for this mess) and being at the receiving end of exact reciprocity would maybe make them think for once.

    Except for the ones that like the rubber glove treatment..

    Yes, I'm OK now, thanks. Tea?

  10. DainB Bronze badge

    What ?

    "The same reasoning was used for the March 2017 ban on in-cabin kit larger than a smartphone on flights from the Middle East to Australia"

    Link to page which does not mention Australia once.

    Seriously ?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    airlines will doubtless suffer as travellers

    will doubtless pay for this suffering

  12. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    $hit will hit the fan

    Turnbull is going to be in deep, heap of animal fat oil!

    If he thinks the whining and whinging Gerry Harvey is a nuisance, then wait until he gets cornered by Alan Joyce!

    Alan Joyce is gonna tear Turnbull a new one so big it'll fit two A380 ... side-by-side.

  13. jMcPhee

    The last 16 years of airline mayhem are making ship board travel look better and better

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge


      My wife and I regularly go to mainland Europe, both to for holiday and to visit family. Until recently, we flew, even though I regularly suggested ferry and drive. Since the birth of our twins last year, my wife accepted that flying is just too hard, so we have gone the ferry/car route, and the difference is huge. Yes, it takes longer to get wherever we are aiming for, but we get to see much more, can eat for significantly less than the airport/flight prices, and we can take all the water and laptops we want! Added to that, the security people at ferry ports are much nicer than those at airports.

      I doubt we'll be flying again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: True!

        .. and you don't get to spend ages queueing for security with other victims.

        Yes, agree with you - it's a shame I get seasick by merely watching a bottle of water askance :(.

  14. sebt

    Please no!

    "Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the nation is considering signing up for the laptops-on-planes ban"

    Please, in the name of what is holy, don't.

    This security theatre spreads by convincing authoritative-sounding people that they have to join the lemming-rush. With the risk of appearing "soft on terrorism" to 6-braincell tabloids as another goad.

    How long is it since the mass pearl-clutching over "liquid bombs" was completely and thoroughly scientifically refuted? How long after will we be allowed to bring liquids onto planes, like we did throughout the terrorist-attack-riddled 70s, 80s and 90s?

    All it would take to stop this is one prominent person to stand up and call out the bullshit for what it is. If Turnbull can be that person, he'll go way up in my estimation.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: Please no!

      Turnbull will never be that person.

  15. JJKing Silver badge

    Pollie lemmings.

    Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the nation is considering signing up for the laptops-on-planes ban

    Totally incorrect there Turnbullshit. The nation is considering no such thing however the idiotic, scum sucking pollies are.

    If a laptop contains an explosive device and it is in the cabin and goes BANG, bad things happen. Probable explosive decompression and if there is a fire, it can be extinguished and the aircraft may land with lives saved.

    If a laptop contains an explosive device and it is in the cargo hold and goes BANG, then you are dead.

  16. Flywheel Silver badge

    We don't need no steenking laptops!

    As a software developer I recently travelled away in the UK with the company laptop and used my 4G smartphone for Internet connection. As the 'Lodge concerned provided me with a large TV and a wall-plate with HDMI, USB power and a VGA connector I realised I was missing a trick.

    I'm now setting up a Raspberry Pi 3 with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (option to use USB versions) and the HDMI connector on the Pi can be used. I can still use the phone's hotspot feature with the Pi's WiFi (option to use a CAT5/6/7 cable) and with all my favourite software on there I'm ready to rock.

    So the Pi can be thrown in the baggage hold and I'll keep the fingernail-size card in my wallet. If the Pi gets nicked in-flight I can just buy another one at my destination, or even use a Pi 2 if need be.

  17. -tim


    There are barometers that are drop in replacements for most of the temperature sensors in a laptop or phone. The cpu that reads those isn't the main processor so it can run a very long time and is running in a semi-sleep mode most of the time when the laptop is "off".

    Unless someone starts doing real world boom tests in simulated luggage compartments at typical flight pressures, I think I would prefer to have the device above the floor where someone might have the ability to do something rather than below it where only the fire suppression system can help out.

    1. Paul

      Re: Barometers?

      I read that El-Al do actually depressurise all luggage on the ground before putting it on the plane, specifically to combat barometric-triggered bombs. It's an expensive security measure.

      Of course, this is something that people don't see, and possibily don't understand, therefore being expensive isn't copied by other airlines because it doesn't go with the main strategy of security theatre.

  18. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    Australia: As the French say "être comme les moutons de Panurge"

    or, in English, 'to act like a bunch of sheep' - just following the Americans.

    As they do in many things these days. EXCEPT they drive on the British side!

  19. Malcolm Weir Silver badge


    All the folk asserting that you can stuff Mucho Stuff inside a laptop have something of a point, but there's another aspect that they're ignoring:

    The US/MiddleEast ban impacts KINDLEs, too.

    So some dimwit has decided that large phones (iPhone 7+ sort of thing) are OK, but Kindles are not OK. Oh, and battery packs are OK, as long as they're physically small.

  20. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Is there a betting pool

    for when the first "loss of aircraft and all souls aboard" due to fire in the hold? Or are we expecting that since the majority of the laptops will be stolen before takeoff, the remaining risk is negligible?

    (A friend had a one-of-a-kind prototype stolen from checked baggage. Never recovered, although the case it had been packed in was found in the "TSA Employees only" coffee room)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There's more risk from people dying/getting ill from the 'fish' choice on a plane than any bombers.

  22. cshore

    What they are really admitting is...

    ...that they are incapable - still - of detecting explosives in luggage. Why on earth do they bother scanning everything and everyone that goes on a plane? What exactly are they looking for? If they can't reliably detect explosive substances, then they should stop pretending they can.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: What they are really admitting is...

      They are looking for drugs and cash - especially cash!

      Just like the war on drugs, the war on terror is merely a plot device for the war for control of money.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here are a few alternative reasons....

    1. A cabin laptop ban will force flyers to put the laptop in the luggage. There it can be

    a) intercepted to install a backdoor

    b) intercepted to clone the drive (if it takes long the luggage will just be delayed)

    2. Flyers that leave their laptop at home will work from the cloud when abroad which can be intercepted

    3. Stop flyers from working in-flight and force flyers to watch in flight entertainment out of boredom which can be used for profiling

    4. Stop flyers from using laptop based VPN's from abroad

    5. Reduce the risk that flyers (hackers) hijack the flight control system and bring the plane down

  24. Paul

    if I fly to the US again, I'll not take a laptop, I'll buy a chromebook when I get there, and factory-reset/erase it before I come back.

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