TSA Requires Charged Devices At Some Overseas Airports

Homeland Security tells US-bound air travelers at certain overseas airports that mobile devices need to be operational when boarding, or gadgets will be confiscated.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

July 7, 2014

3 Min Read
(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/2427289782/" target="_blank">Alan Levine</a>)

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The Department of Homeland Security just made it a bit more annoying to travel via airplane with electronics. Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson directed the TSA to put enhanced security measures in place at select airports overseas that offer direct flights to the US. Travelers need to make sure their gear is fully charged before boarding.

"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 cellphones," the TSA said in a statement. "Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening." In other words, charge up before you charge to the airport -- especially if you want to make your flight.

[Wasn't it supposed to be easier by now to bring your devices? Watch BYOD Expectations Just Keep Rising.]

The idea behind this measure is a simple one: Devices that function as the manufacturer intended probably don't pose a threat to travelers. In the eyes of Homeland Security, devices that don't or can't power on might not necessarily pose a threat, but are at the very least questionable. The last thing international travelers want is to be caught with a "questionable" device.

The TSA didn't define what constitutes "powering on." Does that mean the operating system has to launch in full? Does that mean the boot sequence has to initiate? Does that mean an LED bulb has to glow somewhere on the device? Further, the TSA didn't explain if or how travelers will be compensated if their devices are confiscated. Phones, laptops, and tablets run out of juice. It's a fact of life. Should employers and consumers alike be (even more) concerned about their gear when traveling out of the US? What's a mobile professional to do if his or her laptop -- stuffed full of sensitive work data -- is taken by TSA? The confiscation policy seems severe, especially when considering how expensive these devices are.

A seasoned traveler already knows to place his or her laptop in a separate bin, to empty all pockets, and to remove his or her jacket, shoes, and belt during security screening. At US airports, this routine has been in place for years. Security at European airports (at least those from which I've caught flights back to the US) don't necessarily force travelers to jump through as many hoops. The Department of Homeland Security did not explicitly list the airports where the new rules apply. It only suggested the enhanced screening measures will be in effect for US-bound flights originating from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

"We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible," said DHS's Johnson. "We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and are consulting the aviation industry. These communications are an important part of our commitment to providing our security partners with situational awareness about the current environment and protecting the traveling public. Aviation security includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by an evolving environment."

Bottom line: Whether you're traveling abroad for work or to enjoy a hard-earned vacation, be sure to charge your devices -- enough so they can boot fully -- before heading to the airport.

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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