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What you need to know about the airline electronics ban

Passengers wait in front of a Turkish Airlines desk to check in for U.S.-bound flights at the Ataturk Airport, in Istanbul. The United States and Britain have banned travelers from bringing most electronic devices on-board with them on flights from several Muslim-majority counties in the Middle East and North Africa. (EPA/SEDAT SUNA)

The U.S. decision this week to ban laptops, tablets and other personal electronic devices aboard U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries has left travelers with a lot of questions.

Britain and U.S. ban most electronic devices in cabins on flights from several Muslim-majority countries

We have put together the very basics of the new rules and, for folks worried about iPad withdrawal, some tips for surviving a transatlantic flight without your tablet or laptop. (Hello, 1990s!)

What exactly does the new travel policy require?

The new rules require that personal devices larger than a smartphone to be placed in checked baggage for U.S.-bound flights departing from 10 major airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Cellphones and medical devices are not impacted by the U.S. ban.

What are the 10 airports covered by the ban?

Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Jordan, Cairo International Airport (CAI) in Egypt, Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST) in Turkey, King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) and King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait International Airport (KWI) in Kuwait, Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) in Morocco, Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Qatar, and Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) in the United Arab Emirates.

Which airlines are affected?

Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines,  EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines and Royal Air Maroc.

When does the ban go into effect?

Travel groups say they support enhanced security measures but want to hear justification for electronics ban

Airlines were given up to 96 hours to implement the policy. That clock began at 3 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday so airlines have until early Saturday to comply.

Some airlines will likely comply sooner than others, but as of Wednesday airlines had been advising passengers to pack their electronic devices in their checked luggage.

“It all comes down to their operational ability to implement within that timeframe,” TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. “We don’t expect the airlines to wait until the 96th hour.”

What devices need to be in checked luggage? 

TSA said any electronic device larger than a cellphone will not be allowed on carry-on luggage. These include: laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, DVD players, electronic game units larger than a smartphone, printers and scanners.

What if I am flying from a different country but have a layover in one of the 10 airports?  

TSA officials say the ban applies to “points of last departure,” meaning that any passenger boarding a flight at those 10 airports is affected, even if it is a connecting flight.

Why the sudden change?

U.S. officials say the changes were prompted by concerns about attempts by terrorist groups to target commercial flights, including smuggling explosives in various personal electronic devices.  Officials, however, did not point at a specific threat.

How long will the ban be in effect?

Federal officials initially described the ban as indefinite. But a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the directive runs until Oct. 14, and could be extended for another year.

Bummer! How can I make this a more pleasant experience?

Traveler advocates are advising passengers to prepare for complying with the new regulations by adding extra time to go through the security screenings.  TSA officials recommend passengers use a lock to secure their checked luggage.

As far as entertainment? Officials say they understand this will inconvenience families traveling with children who depend on their portable devices to keep them entertained and business travelers who work on the long-haul trips.  But safety and security come first, they say. And, who said you need an e-reader or the tablet videos to stay entertained?

“Buy a book! It is a long flight,” Farbstein said. There’s also good old-fashioned pen and paper, crayons, coloring books, a deck of cards, or a good pillow to get some sleep.

But the airlines want you to know there’s no reason to panic.  Most overseas flights offer entertainment. Emirates, for example, says, it offers more than 2,500 channels of movies, sports and kids shows. “Who needs tablets and laptops anyway?” the airline said in a video ad posted Tuesday. “Let us entertain you.”