Emirates offers 'handling service' to sidestep electronics ban

Emirates airline has announced that it will introduce a ''laptop and tablet handling service'', a move that follows the ban on carry-on electronic devices introduced by the United States and Britain this week.

With the service, Emirates is attempting to minimize the inconvenience to fliers affected by the new directive, which indefinitely covers US-bound flights from 10 airports in Africa, the Middle East and Turkey. Dubai, where Emirates operates a major international connecting hub, is among the airports covered by the US ban, though the United Kingdom's measure does not include Dubai.

Emirates' new handling service will be offered free to customers travelling to the US from Dubai, allowing them to use their laptops and tablets until just before boarding.

Prior to boarding, customers will be required to ''declare and hand over their laptops, tablets, and other banned electronic devices to security staff'' as they go through gate-side screening in Dubai.

Emirates says ''the devices will be carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination''.

''Our aim is to ensure compliance with the new rules while minimizing disruption to passenger flow and impact on customer experience,'' Emirates president Tim Clark said in a statement. ''Our new complimentary service enables passengers, particularly those flying for business, to have the flexibility to use their devices until the last possible moment.''

Still, despite the new handling option, Emirates said US-bound passengers leaving from Dubai ''are encouraged to pack their electronic devices into their (checked) luggage in the first instance, to avoid delays''.

Emirates also warned that fliers hoping to take advantage of the service ''should be aware that there will be a detailed search of all hand baggage on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai. They should therefore declare their devices before the search, or ensure their electronic devices are packed into their (checked) luggage.''

Dubai-based Emirates is one of the carriers likely to feel the most-significant effects of the US electronics ban.

Overall, the policy affects about 50 flights a day to the US, a large number of which are operated by Emirates. The carrier flies to 12 US airports, offering multiple daily flights on some routes.

Emirates also flies two non-stop routes from Europe to the United States, though those services – one from Milan and another from Athens – are not covered by the electronics ban.

Emirates has already responded to the electronics ban by rolling out a lighthearted social media ad saying: ''Who needs tablets and laptops anyway?'' The spot, which features spokeswoman Jennifer Aniston, instead plays up Emirates' robust in-flight entertainment options.