IT gear still allowed on US-bound flights

Travelers bound for the United States can still use tech equipment on board aircraft, Singapore travel industry players say, despite contradictory reports.

SINGAPORE--Business travelers to the United States can still use electronics on board aircraft, local travel industry players say, despite reports that the operation of tech equipment has been disallowed.

Additional security measures were introduced by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, following an attempt last week by a Nigerian man to set off an explosive device during a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit.

The TSA has not officially said there would be a ban on the use of electronic equipment on international flights to the United States. It has so far said on its Web site that extra security measures would be implemented at the last point of departure for international flights to U.S.

"Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches," the TSA said on the site. "During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight."

However, some passengers have reported restriction on IT devices for the entire flight duration. Others said in blogs and Twitter posts, that the restrictions applied only in the last hour of air travel.

Charlene Li, a San Mateo, Calif.-based analyst, said on her Twitter account that the new flight rules included no use of electronics for the entire duration of international flights.

In another tweet, she said:

"So no Kindle, no laptop on int'l flights into US. My kids slept and read a good book. I worked on my book--with a pen & paper."

A check with the local travel industry, seemed to suggest that it was pretty much business-as-usual for passengers traveling from Singapore to the United States.

In an e-mail statement, Nicholas Ionides, vice president of public affairs at Singapore Airlines, noted that the latest TSA guidelines did not require aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services to be disabled. However, he added that U.S.-bound travelers to expect additional security screening, and should heed instructions from inflight crew.

"The safety of our customers and crew is our top priority and we will ensure we are in compliance with the directives issued by the U.S. TSA," he said.

Lim Hui-Juan, founder and COO of Singapore-based customized travel provider Quotient TravelPlanner, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that the company's customers have not reported any unusual security measures relating to IT equipment, beyond the "now common" need to separate laptops from carry-on luggage at baggage screening areas.

Advisories issued by "most airlines" notify U.S.-bound passengers of not only extra security checks, but also "restrictions on the use of in-seat telephones", she added.

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