PED power questions abound as TSA implements new rule

Rotation

Every new TSA security directive seems to elicit the same series of responses from the traveling public – outrage, confusion, and indifference. After the TSA issued “enhanced security measures” for portable electronic devices (PEDs) at several overseas airports with flights to the US, outrage and confusion seem to have prevailed.

In response to a directive from the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, the TSA mandated that “powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft”. Unlike in the past where the TSA may have asked you to power up just your laptop, this new regulation applies to all electronics, from iPad to smartphone to digital camera. Anyone who has travelled in the modern digital age knows that it is a constant fight to keep our numerous devices charged up, and travel takes a particular toll on that battery icon.

I understand that changes to security protocol are sometimes necessary, but this time around, it all seems very confusing. The TSA itself issued only a small paragraph and has left much of the rulemaking up to the individual airlines, which opens up the possibility for varying rules and unnecessary confusion.

Some airlines are telling passengers to expect inspection at security, some at the gate, and some at both points. If airlines are looking to make this as confusing as possible, they have succeeded. In addition to simply powering on, Air France states devices must be able to “register on our website”. Well, that’s a problem. I often don’t have data access while traveling internationally, and my whopping 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi provided in Paris would probably have long expired.

British Airways says passengers should use their electronic gizmos “sparingly” if connecting through Heathrow to the US, and that extra charging points will be provided at Heathrow, which is nice. Hopefully British Airways will make those added charging points a permanent thing, as Heathrow could surely use them.

To its credit, British Airways does provide a lengthy page full of explanations and frequently asked questions. Those answers, however, contradict what other airlines are saying, so who am I to believe? British Airways says dead devices can’t even be placed in hold luggage, but Delta only mentions carry-on items.

Power up

My power pack

When traveling, I often count on little lithium ion “rechargers”, which are simply batteries that recharge other batteries. I have no fewer than 10 of these, and frequently travel with four or five of them at a time. What happens when these electronic devices are done recharging my other devices? They themselves won’t have any power left to display that they function, so would I have to surrender it before I board?

As more passengers realize how convenient these little portable rechargers are, more and more are going to start appearing in-flight. For the vast majority of the time, that won’t be an issue. However, many of these devices are sold cheaply on the Internet and are poorly constructed. If the aerospace industry has learned anything recently, it’s that lithium ion batteries are volatile.

Hopefully, whatever threat the Department of Homeland Security identified is nullified by this new rule, and no innocent passenger ends up throwing out their $900 iPad to catch that last flight to New York.

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