The Trump administration’s recent implementation of a policy banning large electronic devices, including laptops and tablets, in passengers’ carry-ons on flights departing from the Middle East, has airline companies scrambling. The mainstream providers, including Emirates, Turkish Airways, Etihad, and Qatar, are now on the defensive, as they try to not lose their market share of long-haul flights to the United States. More localized airlines, such as Air India, are greedily eyeing others’ shares, as they can provide flights to American that connect in China or Japan. The Middle-Eastern airlines’ fears are not without evidence, as Turkish Airlines’ stock fell about 7% when the electronics ban was announced in the United States.
As such, many of the airlines have started marketing campaigns, attempting to reassure customers that they do not really need personal computers or Kindles to have an enjoyable in-flight experience. The quality of the advertisements vary demonstrably; one of the better, more notable examples is Etihad Airway’s commercial entitled “Make Flying Great Again.” This commercial puts the perpetrator of the new American policy, President Donald Trump, in its sights, while also highlighting the multitude of benefits that comes with flying with their airline, such as in-flight wi-fi for cellphones, reclining seats, and premium meals.
Other airlines take a, perhaps, more traditional route by using famous actors and actresses in their commercials, in order to entice more customers. In a brief, eighteen-second advertisement posted on Twitter, Emirates uses Jennifer Aniston to highlight the seat-back entertainment on their flights. However, Emirates’ piece incited a good amount of backlash; an employee from the International Middle East Center tweeted, “@emirates journalists aren’t looking to be entertained on long flights. Laptops are necessary to meeting a deadline.”
The United States has its reasons for banning large electronic devices on carry-ons from the Middle East; whether these reasons are morally just or not is a different story. Intelligence agencies have recently thwarted several bomb threats, and they are in fear of a particular bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, whom they say is incredibly cunning in his designs. Regardless, it is a difficult situation for many airlines, and all of the Middle-Eastern airlines are attempting to spice up their image, in order to not lose any market share or profits. However, there is some hope on the horizon. Even if the United States does not repeal this ban, airlines can start providing their customers with loaner laptops. Qatar Airways has already begun this service for its business-class passengers, and it is easy to assume that many more airlines will follow in its footsteps. While this program is not ideal, it will lessen the already uncomfortable experience for travelers.