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Most Electronics Being Banned on Certain US-Bound Flights (bloomberg.com)
249 points by BWStearns 187 days ago | hide | past | web | 450 comments | favorite



I see many people here trying to puzzle out why electronics are under a partial ban from cabins but not from checked baggage. It's a good question, since if there is a fire or explosion hazard on a plane the last place you want it is wrapped in a wad of flammable cloth and synthetics, even if it is oxygen starved.

The only motivation I can imagine is: They want these devices in checked luggage because checked luggage can be inspected without recourse by customs, and without an on-site confrontation. With care, it can be done without even notifying the people who are being checked.

And given the pushback on social media credential disclosure and the reveal that the CIA (and presumably FBI and other agencies) have physical access exploits (probably via USB or DisplayPort) for most of these devices, this seems like a move who's only logical motivation could be easier digital inspection.

Remember, it's the position of the TSA and CBP that non-citizens don't have rights of any kind until they're allowed through customs, and by simply inspecting devices they're interested in quickly and without publicity or confrontation they will certainly be more effective at it.

I'm going to start putting a USB nuke stick in my luggage in an envelope. Just for fun. Maybe I'll label the envelope something nonsensical like "12-16" just to make sure people know it's useless. And in case I (or someone investigating my luggage) needs to plug something into a USB slot.


This. And also people not having devices on their person means they can't quickly text friends/family if they get detained/mistreated/etc.

It seems like we're getting closer and closer to being in a situation where people who can should avoid going to the US at all, and make their reasoning known. Ie, refuse to give talks, attend conferences, etc. in the US.


This is already happening. I'm in Europe and I've heard quite a few friends (mostly academics) state that they're actively avoiding traveling to the US.


I have to admit some border crossing incidents[1] are what I would imagine entering North Korea would be like, not the US.

[1][10min audio] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDYMw1p8s9M


As someone from Canada, that guy was being a total dick, very aggressive, mansplaining the agent, which isn't surprising that it would trigger the customs agent. He would have had the same response from an agent at the border in Canada.

Ex: "what shops are you planning to go to". It's fine to answer "I don't know yet". They're just testing behaviour. If you start being defensive or aggressive, pretend to know their jobs better than they, etc, it's suspicious. Although yes, in general, the US agents are really bad at doing behaviour testing.

Anecdotal: Last year, I crossed the border a few times by car, visiting a friend I met on Tinder. I completely got away with it, giving honest answers at the border. Recently met someone else (a girl) who was stopped and accused of prostitution for doing the exact same thing. :/


Yes, well...

You may not understand quite how much most Americans hate CBP. I use "hate" here deliberately. It represents the worst part of our government and a codification of our racist laws and culture even at the best of times.

They find a way to weaponize ignorance and shame people who are different at every turn. They have tackled people and held them at gunpoint for LED shirts, they've publicly shamed women for having vibrators in their luggage, they've delayed flights because people speak Tolkien's elvish leaving comicon.

And their definition of sincere risk? Brown people or people who are different. They can detain Americans and non-Americans alike without due process and stories report they do just to make a point.

And the worst part? They are bad at their jobs. The FBI is a problematic institution as well, but at least they can point to data that suggests they're doing things here and there to actually foil people who genuinely want to cause domestic problems.

Even conservative Americans hate the TSA and CBP face to face. We're all scared of them, because we know they're stupid and bad at their jobs but terribly powerful.


No doubt! My general strategy for crossing borders is to expect to be hassled a little bit, and to accordingly make sure that I have a good amount of patience stored up ahead of time. It took him about 3 seconds to get irritated.


> "I completely got away with it"

No, because you didn't do anything wrong.

Border crossing is not a crime, last I checked, despite the best efforts of some to make it feel that way.


Agreed, I was being bitter/sarcastic. I meant to say that they incorrectly profiled the other person who was stopped.


It's a bit sad that such behavior is normalized to the point that such a trivial thing is escalated to someone being locked up. Maybe it's some kind of strange taste for masochism that I don't understand. I'm not trying to be offensive or anything, I really don't understand why is such a hostile, aggressive and demeaning behavior accepted as a norm.

Contrast that to this (6min): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV-wgZBGfCo

None of those stories are that important in and of themselves, it's the whole normalized atmosphere of fear, guilt and almost agony that I don't understand.


When I cross borders I'm almost always very tired, very stressed, I feel dirty and nauseous. These are things that make handling other people difficult for me.

Of course there is going to be someone who reacts badly, but you would think that they have professionals at the border that know this, from what I've seen when disembarking in London there are people who know how to handle these things. I've seen the same situation being descalated in 10 seconds.

I'm guessing there is little pay and pride to be had for a border guard in the US, so little incentive for being anything else than a git.


Exactly how is the guy "mansplaining"? Seems like the term is now being used to every interaction between a men and a women if the men just doesn't accept absolutely everything the women tells him to do - no matter how idiotic - without arguing in is own favour.


On second thought, the cynic in me is saying you're just laying the groundwork for your next encounter with customs agents in case you have to hand over your online accounts :)


I rarely defend customs agents. I'm sure they could flag me just by looking at my public twitter posts, which use my real name. I have already decided to avoid the US anyway.

However, Canada can be just as bad. Bottom line: know the law, be polite/calm, travel light, be honest but keep answers at a minimum. Unfortunately, since I travel often for business, that means I've spent way too much time at social events exchanging about travel tips, rather than actual productive conversation. It's also silly that we're adding barriers instead of removing them. What a waste :(


I started doing this 10 years ago, the recent changes haven't made me want to reconsider.


Closer and closer? How about it's already happened.

I just visited some of my friends in Japan, many of whom wanted to visit me in the US once their children got a bit older, and they all said they are straight up frightened of simply trying to enter the US. These are some of the most upstanding people you can meet with jobs like being teachers, government employees, etc. They are the last people who should be afraid of being found as suspicious persons, yet the reality is that based on what they see in the news, I can't blame them.


Here's the thing about leaving Japan: it's always way more dangerous than staying in Japan. US homicide rate is like 10x higher. I'd bet your "upstanding" friends have layers of reservations about visiting.


Japanese crime rates are underreported, and in reality most likely very similar to northern European countries in term of safety (and many other things, such as birth rate, another oft repeated misconception).

Popular culture likes to portray Japan as a weird outlier country- but that's only if you compare it to the US. If you include the aforementioned European countries in the comparison, the US is the weird country.


I dno about comparable to northern Europe. Stockholm, Sweden has recently had a huge burst in deadly shootings, and a Swedish official got caught in trying to lie to the BBC saying that rape is decreasing in Sweden. Official statistics show an increase between the last two data points, the last one being from 2015 or 2016 if I recall correctly.

I have bit heard anything of the like in Japan, but as you say it could be because they don't have the same measures/report rate we have, or that I don't check Japanese statistics as much.


And the U.S. violence rates are really skewed. If you remove about half a dozen large cities, the U.S. rate for homicides, etc., is much more in line with the rest of the first world.


Certain crimes are under-reported, but on the whole even accounting for that crime rates are significantly lower for the sorts of petty crime that impact most people.


Crime rate in the US is not an issue, but when talking about travelling in to the US advice like leaving your phone at home etc is quite common. That does influence some people, not to a big degree yet, but it's not getting better atm is it?


The report said that cellphones are allowed. Agree with the avoiding US part. I'm currently reading a book on the state of physics under the third reich and the parallels on the state looking inwardly are chilling.


What's the book?


I cancelled my participation in a free software conference this year, but I doubt it will be much noticed except by the core team (I help with internationalization). I also didn't make too much noise about it, not to harm the event/community. Most of our European partners already do not bother going to the US and organise their own conference.

You may notice is less and less diversity, but it's already pretty low, and we're often not very good at noticing that.


Cell phones are excluded from the ban, according to this article. That makes it highly unlikely that prevention of ability to text is the goal. I know very few people who text on their tablet, laptop, or camera.


Cell phones are most likely excluded because they're so obnoxiously hard to compromise compared to laptops. Cell phones, you need per-hardware exploits and the vendors patch aggressively.

When was the last time your laptop's USB controllers had a firmware upgrade for security hardening?


That's a reasonable argument if the goal is being able to examine the devices. Nothing to do with texting, though. ;)


They already confiscate devices. I'm not sure that there is much to be gained by banning phones. The absence of a report coupled with the publicly available info of landing is probably enough to signal trouble.


Cell phones are excluded from the ban, according to the article.


For now. According to the article.


interestingly, you see airlines moving away from in-flight entertainment screens in the seat in front of you, in favor of BYOD. A logical move: let the clients bring their equipment (they bring it anyway) so you don't have to (install, maintain, spend fuel on, etc.).

Now with airlines actually removing in flight entertainment, flying from the Middle East to New York can be quite a long trip: no laptop to watch a movie, no screen in front of you.

I guess the US will stop banning as soon as one of these policy-makers is on the same flight as a few bored kids ;-)


Maybe people will have to read books?!


True, it some like myself can't read on a plane due to motion sickness. Watching a video is fine, but not focusing on text.


My mum noticed that if she sets her kindle to 2 or so sizes larger text, she doesn't get motion sick any more.


I've never finished reading more than a page in a moving car without feeling nauseous.


Yes. I love to read books on a 17 hour flight instead of being able to watch TV shows, work on programming problems offline or the countless other productive things that a laptop can provide.


That would be great if airlines provided standard power outlets and/or USB ports.


Canada Air does! It's great.


Trump will flip-flop on this mercurially 7x before breakfast while watching the "PDB" on TV (aka Fox and Friends).


> It seems like we're getting closer and closer to being in a situation where people who can should avoid going to the US at all.

For me already well past that point, no way would I travel to the US for any reason, work or pleasure.

I'm from the UK and I'm seriously contemplating getting out of here while the going is good as well.


Makes sense. However, how is that going to protect the US? The moment such information is public, perpetrators will not transport any digital devices with incriminating data. What you re left with are people being harrassed over a digital copy of "how to make a potato launcher" on their laptops.

Frankly, it seems the US policing practices have been looking more and more USSR like. And i dont just mean since trump arrived to power.


  how is that going to protect the US? [...] perpetrators
  will not transport any digital devices with incriminating
  data.
Options include:

1. Bad guys with imperfect opsec (I see in your unallocated space there's a deleted TAILS ISO... onto a watchlist with you!)

2. Friends and relatives of bad guys (I see your nephew e-mailed you holiday photos from cybercafes near two different suspected terrorist training camps... onto a watchlist with him!) a bit like social media companies' 'shadow profiles'

3. Non-terrorist targets, like good old corporate espionage and political blackmail (Oh, you're a journalist/oil industry exec/prostitute? Let me just take a copy of your contacts, records and reports)


Pretty sure from leaked XKEYSCORE rulesets, anyone who downloaded or googled "tails" is already on that list.


The answer is simple: It doesn't protect the US at all.


>I'm going to start putting a USB nuke stick in my luggage in an envelope. Just for fun. Maybe I'll label the envelope something nonsensical like "12-16" just to make sure people know it's useless.

I love the idea but I can't help but think that even with a completely airtight reason to be traveling with that item (e.g. you're a security researcher) you would be accused of terrorism. Somehow.


That's the problem with Authoritarian (Liberal and Conservative) interpretations of the Constitution. USBkill sticks are non-regulated items, so you don't NEED the government's permission or a "good reason" to possess them.

Unfortunately, Liberals have weakened the 2nd Amendment to mean "only if you have a good reason", and weakened the 1st Amendment to mean "as long as you don't offend someone", while Conservatives have weakened the 4th amendment to mean "we suspected it without good cause and it turns out we were right which made the whole search ok."

I think if we stop weakening the ammendments we'll stop seeing violations of our basic civil liberties. But when California passes laws that regulate firearms you can wrap a thumb around (yes, this is a real thing), and Arizona passes a law that allows police to stop you if they suspect you're an illegal immigrant, we'll be in a slow spiral with decreasing rights.


I'd like you to explore the root cause behind your symptom: erosion of citizen rights.

The desire to strengthen old laws is interesting. Why is it that they seem better than the laws we can create today, given our advancements in education and ethics? Pining for the past due to the absence of 'something better'. Why does that 'something better' not exist?

Rights are granted with the intent to increase power/wealth for those who grant rights. Based on results, those in power no longer believe that granting rights to commoners is in their best interest.

Average citizens have less impact on that now. The constitution and amendments come from a time when they applied to fewer, more powerful people. The erosion of those rights is to be expected unless you're living in an altruistic utopia.

Highly recommend you watch CGP Grey's Rules for Rulers for another perspective.


Well they cannot yet force you to divulge encryption keys, right?

And your nuke device might be worthless if they install a firmware exploit that will work later.


> Well they cannot yet force you to divulge encryption keys, right?

They might not be able to force you but it seems that they can lock you up indefinitely for contempt of court in the US and for they definitely can give you five years in the UK because it is a specific offence there under RIPA.

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13919115 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6248902.


By nuke device he may have been referring to https://www.usbkill.com

https://youtu.be/X4OmkBYB4HY


> I'm going to start putting a USB nuke stick in my luggage

I don't see how that will be fun since the only way you would find out if "it worked" would be by getting pulled from your flight and detained.


Hmm. A charge/discharge circuit with a voltage booster and very large capacitor in line?

Doesn't take a large stretch of the imagination for a CBP official to declare that a "detonation device". Now you're really screwed.



Wipe devices before packing.

Arrive in country then restore backup remotely.


This is bad advice I'm afraid. If you're an alien seeking admission to the United States it's your responsibility to prove that you don't have immigrant intent, not the CBP's responsibility that you do. By showing up at the border with a wiped device you will make it a lot easier for the CBP to build a case against you and put you on the next plane heading back.


Not sure why this is being downvoted. Entering with a wiped device would be viewed as suspicious, rightly or wrongly.


How would the border agents know it's a wiped device? Because it's missing everything and seems like a new phone?

What if I actually bought a new cheap phone because I'm afraid of getting robbed abroad, and even tell the agent?

I ask because I would think that being afraid of losing your expensive phone on a leisure trip is common enough and harmless enough (and totally real reason) that it wouldn't provoke or trigger an agent.

Or am I being delusional?


>Because it's missing everything and seems like a new phone?

Yes. Remember, they don't need proof of anything. You're not on trial. It's largely up to the judgment of the individual officer whether or not someone can enter the US as a visitor.

If they ask you why there's nothing on your phone, you'd better be able to convince them that it's for some other reason than "I don't want you to see it". Can you do that? Well, it depends on how persuasive you are and whether the officer is in a good mood that day.


Well, shit.

I mean, I've been buying burner phones when crossing to the US since several years ago, just because I do am afraid of getting mugged and losing everything while traveling, and since every trip to the US has been for vacation, I really didn't need anything on my phone other than emergency contacts (insurance, etc) and my reservation numbers for whatever I was going to visit.

So hopefully if I ever travel to the US again, and they want to check my phone, I hope they really believe me when I Tell them the truth... but like you said, it will depend on the judgment of the agent so I guess I'm screwed anyways if they want me to be so.

This is just... wow.


It's not really that wow. There's always a lot of judgment involved in admission of visitors. It's never been an entirely fair and transparent process.


If they're searching your phone, it's likely that you're already in secondary inspection. At that point if you're an alien they're already suspecting that you're inadmissible and they are trying to build a case. They will ask a lot of questions in secondary inspection. If they search your phone and find that it's wiped, they will ask about it and they will expect a convincing explanation.

CBP officers working in secondary inspection to this all day, every day, they know what they're looking for, they will lie to you if necessary and chances are that they have heard the same explanations many times already. Secondary inspection is not a pleasant experience at all and you don't want to make it worse by trying to outsmart people who do this for a living.


This is definitely very scary and I didn't mean to say that I would try to outsmart them because as you say, they do this for a living and I'm not a professional liar/spy.

However I think my case still applies in the sense that I would expect a lot of people to also buy a burner phone for a vacation trip just as a way to avoid loss in the event of a robbery, instead of as a way to try to outsmart border agents, so I would hope I would not be alone in giving them this reason as to why my phone is clean.

You raise a good argument though. If I'm already in secondary inspection I guess anything you give them or fail to give them will in any case be used against me, basically depending on the mood of the agent at that time.

I guess an interesting statistic to know (not that government would publish it willingly...) would be how many people that went through secondary inspection where denied access and how many of them were not.


They actually release these numbers: https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/CBP_DHS_20...

Out of the 375 million passengers processed in FY 2014, 34 million was referred to secondary inspection and about 223,000 was found inadmissible. Keep in mind that these numbers also include US citizens who cannot be found inadmissible, but could be referred to secondary inspection for other reasons.


Interesting!

So ~10% get secondary inspection, and of those ~0.65% where found inadmissible (non-citizen as you point out).

Not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand 10% sounds like "not so bad" in that it's actually a minority getting secondary inspections.

On the other hand... if I'm waiting for border agents to let me through and 1 in 10 will get secondary inspections, which by the looks of it would include access to your accounts and such, it sounds like a terribly high percentage.


Until it becomes a norm among travellers.


It won't, though. Way too inconvenient for most people.


That's why you don't wipe your device. You have a normal laptop with a nice FB profile and Google history to show, and when you're in, you cab download the VM image and continue work.


If the 'goal' of this policy is, as postulated elsewhere in the thread, to allow physical access to devices in order to deliver malware, etc., then how would you know your wiped device hadn't acquired a bootkit along the way?

Using a parcel-handling service, gov't or private, along with some tamper-indication of the package interior seems much safer, though not perfect by any means.


My plan is to leave my devices back home. In the US electronics is usually cheaper so I would buy a MacBook and download my personal data from the cloud. After returning home I would sell the MacBook for a nice profit.


Or simply return the Macbook back to the shop.


Having a device that looks wiped is grounds for suspicion in and of itself these days. In some cases, enough to turn someone away (remember, they can always do that to non-citizens, and you have very little recourse if they do).


Care to cite an example where this actually happened? I've brought wiped devices countless times.


http://www.dailyxtra.com/canada/news-and-ideas/news/us-custo...

(HN thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13702981)

Specifically, this part:

A month later, André attempted to fly to New Orleans again. This time, he brought what he thought was ample proof that he was not a sex worker: letters from his employer, pay stubs, bank statements, a lease agreement and phone contracts to prove he intended to return to Canada.

When he went through secondary inspection at Vancouver airport, US Customs officers didn’t even need to ask for his passwords — they were saved in their own system. But André had wiped his phone of sex apps, browser history and messages, thinking that would dispel any suggestion he was looking for sex work. Instead, the border officers took that as suspicious.

“They went through my computer. They were looking through Word documents,” André says. “I had nude photos of myself on my phone, and they were questioning who this person was. It was really humiliating and embarrassing.”

“They said, ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’ and that was it. I wasn’t let through. He said I’m a suspected escort. You can’t really argue with them because you’re trapped,” he says.

He wasn’t necessarily declined solely because he wiped the phone (they already suspected him due to the previous encounter), but they made it pretty clear they don’t like it since they considered that reason enough to not let him through a second time despite all the supporting paperwork.



How do you do that with 1.5TB of video? My Lightroom library of stills alone is 900GB.

Have you ever used hotel wifi?

Give me a break.


Obviously you only wipe sensitive data/documents, not movies or torrents


The video and stills are things that I shot, most geotagged and datestamped. The video is frequently, uhh, sensitive.

What am I to do? Networks simply aren't fast enough to deal with my data sizes.


(Minor note: I think you mean "from cabins but not from checked baggage")


Quite right. Thanks.


>> Maybe I'll label the envelope something nonsensical like "12-16"

Label it "Very Bad USB" and put a bunch of noise in there. When you get detained tell them that you forgot the second part, "corrupts data"


USB nuke

Do you actually have one? I searched for a bit but it doesn't seem like they're sold.

https://kukuruku.co/post/usb-killer/


I am pretty sure you can buy them here (have never tried, though...) https://www.usbkill.com

My favorite is the USB-C one, because the USB-C spec supports 100W...


Thanks!

After huge demand, the USB Kill V3.0 comes in an anonymous version.

No branding - No logos - Generic Case. The anonymous version is perfect for penetration testers that require discretion.

There's no way this thing would be used in a pentest. It destroys computers. Generally pentesters try not to destroy the client's property.

Amusing way to frame it, though.


"penetration testing" is usually a euphemism for "blackhat". "penetration testers that require discretion", doubly so.


If this was actually about a security risk, they would be doing this on all airlines, not just airlines originating from Muslim majority countries. If you take Royal Jordanian to a European hub, then hop on a US carrier, you'll be able to take your gear on board. So this does exactly what to mitigate a security risk?

It does however force business travelers to rethink flying Emirates, Etihad, etc and fly United, etc instead. I'll be interested to see if these airlines sue.


There is also a slightly less scary reason, which also applies to liquids: it is harder to fashion a bomb together and set it off when you can't touch it.

A half gallon of petrol sitting inside your fake laptop in the hold is no biggie. A half gallon of petrol in the cabin is a whole different ballgame.


The Big 4 Middle East/Gulf airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Turkish) have been giving legacy US carriers a lot of grief lately, since they're both cheaper and better on essentially all counts, so I can't help but wonder if they have their finger in the pie here. Few businessmen will opt to fly long-haul if they can't use their laptops, and they're specifically targeting 9 airlines here, not just airports or countries.

It's also beyond bizarre that the US trusts Abu Dhabi's security enough to locate its only Middle Eastern Customs/Immigration preclearance facility, but not enough to let passengers who have gone through security bring tablets...


As an anecdote, I've flown United and Turkish across the Atlantic and it's a world of difference.

In 2016, the United airplane I was in still did not have a seatback screen and they expected all 200+ passengers to connect to the wifi to try to get in-flight entertainment. Of course no one got on. So all of us were left craning our necks trying to catch a glimpse of whatever was on the CRT in the aisle.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines has a touchscreen interface with beautifully done transitions and an amazing selection of movies and music. I remember seeing Radiohead's Kid A on there, along with the Blade Runner soundtrack.

Next month, I'm flying to Berlin via Turkish even though it will take 4 more hours because the price and comfort are worth it. Only problem is, this electronics ban may compromise my electronics.

(And yes, I'm aware of early adopter pitfalls and government subsidies for airlines, but United has no qualms treating non-status passengers like trash.)


I'll never fly United again. I had a similar experience for 14 hours. It isn't just the in flight entertainment. In my experience their staff are rude and borderline incompetent. There must be a poor culture in the company as a whole. My wife just flew with them and went nearly 10 hours without a meal while she was flying with our two year old.

Edit: spelling


My favorite United moment, immediately following a hard landing. Flight attendant (loud enough for a lot of people to hear): "That was the worst landing all year. They really should teach these guys to land the planes before they let them fly them."


Don't get me started on United. I refuse to fly with them (LHR to SFO about 4 times a year) for a myriad of reasons, not limited to: food quality, delays, total failure of in-flight entertainment system and taking an extra 1.5 days to get me home (direct flight cancelled, so shunted via Dulles). I'm a tolerant person, but United excelled at pissing me off.


Yeah! I have been flying for decades. Delta seems to have a cycle of climbing to excellence and falling. United Air Lines has always made me miserable reliably.


Agreed. Nearly every time there will be stewardesses who look like they have some kind of job guarantee or something and they don't even pretend to be polite. So much different from Southwest or even the other dirt cheap airlines (e.g. Frontier).


It sounds like you were on a fairly old United plane (CRTs in the aisle). While there are newer planes with seat-back screens, their newest planes eschew any sort of seat-back entertainment completely. At least on domestic flights, it's been a while since I've flown internationally.

This is a deliberate decision that airlines are starting to make. If most passengers are bringing a wifi-capable device (ipad, phone, etc), then why go to the extra expense (and weight) to support seat-back screens?

Now, my main experience with this has been flying within the US where none of the newest planes have screens. Internationally, there may still be screens included in newer planes, but when screens = weight, and weight = $$$, it's not surprising that they are getting removed. Moreover, screens = depth, which when removed can make room for more rows, which means more money.

If this electronics ban takes hold though, I'd expect for there to be a big rethink about this.


Spirit airlines has the thinnest seats I've ever seen on an airplane. It's a metal sheet with thin foam and leather over it. Certainly no room for any seat-back entertainment.

I'll gladly let the airline shove more seats in by thinning them out, than by reducing my leg room any further.

https://www.sanspotter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/las_sa...


The problem was the wifi was incapable of handling all the passengers trying to connect throughout the entire flight from SFO to LHR. Even if I wanted to pay them money to watch a movie, I couldn't.

So United saved costs by not retrofitting their airplanes with seatback screens and by offering shit wifi.

Of course Louis CK would say: https://youtu.be/ZFsOUbZ0Lr0


United is just a bad airline. I've had better service in Economy class on SWISS than I had in business on United.


Yep. Turkish Airlines is the 7th best airline in the world, and the best in Europe, according to Skytrax: http://www.airlinequality.com/news/2016-world-airline-awards...


In last 2 years Turkish Airlines had 3 serious accidents. In 2015 they have seriously damaged their plane twice during landing in Kathmandu and Istanbul. In 2017 they lost plane that they have been operating which killed all 4 crew members and at least 34 people on the ground when it crashed in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.[1]

Also their primary hub Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST) was attacked in 2016, which left 45 people killed and more than 230 people injured.[2]

I am not sure what criteria they use to issue this award, but they do not look safe enough to me to be on the 7th best position in the world.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_Airlines#Incidents_and... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Atat%C3%BCrk_Airport_atta...


Dead people can't fill out surveys. ;)

I knew of the attack at Ataturk Airport and I'm fine with a layover there. I'd even change to a stopover to hang out in Istanbul again, but don't have the time this trip. If you can get over your fears and fly the two airlines, I'm sure you'll find Turkish to be a better experience than United.


I flew United frequently before 2016 to Africa, Europe, and Asia and all the flights had full size screens in economy and economy plus. The handheld streaming is common for domestic flights.


747s are all streaming.


> In 2016, the United airplane I was in still did not have a seatback screen

This just depends which plane you get. They all have new and old planes, you can get unlucky on any airline.


I haven't got "unlucky" on an international BA flight in 15+ years. So no, it doesn't just depend on the plane.


I flew Cape Town to LHR in January on BA and my entertainment system was stuck in a loop, booting into RedHat over and over again


But at least it's finally the year of Linux in the headrest.


It's not new. I had a 4-hour wait at the terminal to get to a KLM plane in Chengdu a bit over 10 years ago, this was perhaps 2006. The reason became clear when they informed us upon boarding that "the in-flight entertainment system is unfortunately not available, but it is not connected to flight systems and has no impact on flight security".

The entertainment system on the seat backs was Linux in a reboot loop.


Does Turkish Airlines have airplanes in their fleet without seatback screens? Do these planes fly international routes?


Not sure about TA, but my experience is that 95% of this is just about when the planes get bought. Entertainment systems solve the "keep people happy problem" for relatively cheap. But it's pretty expensive to replace all the seats just for that.

JAL/ANA have very new planes with cool entertainment systems, but they also fly their older planes on some routes with a bunch of stuff that looks like it's powered by VCR.

To your question: they probably don't for their major international flights.


I can't think of a single European airline that does not have seat-back IFE on long-haul flights. The same goes for the ME3 airlines.


That's incredibly evil, but I'm sad to say that after some thought I believe you. It's hard to think of another reason why the ban would be given as a list of specific airports — and it just so happens that American carriers don't fly direct to any of the specified cities. (AA sells flights to a few but they are all codeshares, thanks JamilD for correcting my previous statement.)

(Plus, can confirm that the ME airlines are highly competitive. They're subsidized by their governments: http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2015/03/airline-subs... (thanks hueving)).


> Plus, can confirm that the ME airlines are highly competitive. They're subsidized by their governments

That's not true, at least not for Emirates and Etihad, which were the main airlines accused.

Delta and other US airlines did accuse them of violating the Open Skies agreement, yes. Which is quite hypocritical since Delta (like other US airlines) has also taken direct subsidies from the US government.

But, as Emirates showed in their subsequent lawsuit, their financial records prove that they have never taken government subsidies, despite Delta's accusations. Etihad did, but long before Open Skies was signed (1999).

This behavior isn't unusual; the Big Four are just using this as an easy way to smear their biggest competitors, while ignoring other airlines that have similar financial history (China Southern, etc.). But China Southern isn't (currently) drawing passengers away from the Big Four, whereas Emirates/Etihad/Qatar are.

The Gulf aiflines are more efficient than the US airlines because they exclusively serve one city - Emirates, for example, flies only flights to or from Dubai (with a couple of tiny exceptions). That makes it a lot easier to provide excellent service and cheap flights.


JetBlue codeshares with Emirates, who flies to Dubai. JetBlue is a relatively small, mostly domestic airline without any widebody planes.

American doesn't fly to any Middle Eastern cities but they partner with both Etihad and Qatar, who do.


I'm not an expert here, but Kindles (readers, not tablets) seem like the most harmless things. They are almost the perfect devices for long haul flights since the battery life is so long. I usually devour books on long-haul flights on my Kindle.

I wonder if including Kindles is more a jibe against Bezos. Perhaps this is a stretch.


It says that other carriers will be informed on Tuesday, so maybe they aren't aware yet. But yes it's sounds a bit weird to ban it on only some carriers...


This seems like the most likely explanation to me.

Abu Dhabi security was far more stringent than anything I have been through in Europe, (and ironically Brussels, when I was in the Brussels airport in transit when it was attacked).


>"It's also beyond bizarre that the US trusts Abu Dhabi's security enough to locate its only Middle Eastern Customs/Immigration preclearance facility"

This is not correct Quatar has one as well.

I'm also unsure why you would find this "bizarre" as all of the Emirates are incredibly wealthy.


You left out the important part of that sentence: "...but not enough to let passengers who have gone through security bring tablets..."


Yes, see my edit below.


No, they don't...? https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry/operations/p...

And the bizarreness is that they're simultaneously trusting them enough to handle immigration, but not trusting them enough to handle passenger screening.


Yes they do. Source: I've been through it recently.


That's not what he said. He wrote:

> It's also beyond bizarre that the US trusts Abu Dhabi's security enough to locate its only Middle Eastern Customs/Immigration preclearance facility, but not enough to let passengers who have gone through security bring tablets...

It's a good question.


Indeed I didn't read the sentence correctly my apologies.

However, I don't see that as a vote of confidence in them since they are still permitting flights.

I think similar could be said of the TSA in the US - the DHS trust them enough to let passengers who have gone through security bring shampoo as carry on but not enough if those shampoo bottles are greater than 3.4 ounces, despite having gone through their security.

I think its less about a vote of confidence and more about absurdist theater.


> I think similar could be said of the TSA in the US - the DHS trust them enough to let passengers who have gone through security bring shampoo as carry on but not enough if those shampoo bottles are greater than 3.4 ounces, despite having gone through their security.

This is not about DHS trusting TSA, since the specific part of DHS that makes that regulates that is...TSA.


The parallel I was trying to draw was that they don't trust the own systems and procedures, hence things like arbitrary liquid distinctions and now anything with a battery except cell phones.


I've seen it quite a few times.

Someone answers their cell phone mid-flight - BOOM! Down goes the plane, steep descent, passengers screaming, masks drop from the ceiling, until that phone call ends and the plane straightens up.

Blanket ban on electronics is the only way to stop this happening.

One time I was flying and someone had forgotten to turn off their phone until the plane was in the air and it interfered with the navigation systems and we landed in London instead of Paris. Very ocnfuisng.


> Very ocnfuisng.

That's an RF induced race condition. Someone may be using radiowaves next to your keyboard. Now imagine that happening to the auto pilot system.


I'm guessing you forgot the /s tag.


I'm thinking when he says he's seen it multiple times, the /s tag is implicit.


Love it.

I laughed more though at the comments to this - one person genuinely not sure if humor or not, and one guy, smart, that somehow managed to figure it out without a /s. Welcome to next generation of software engineers.


You must be new to the internet. I hope you're aware that people sometimes spout nonsense they genuinely believe in. I know it's HN, but I like to keep my guard up ;)

Let's say you saw a similar comment on HN describing why the Earth is flat. Would you have reacted the same way?


It's plausible that someone could genuinely (if unjustifiably) believe that the Earth is flat.

It is far less plausible that they could genuinely believe they have witnesses, first-hand, several instances of a passenger using a cellphone on a commercial flight and causing it to crash, plus instances of navigation and other failures caused by personal electronics.


Yeah, I'm going to need some stats on that.


Sometimes a person can keep pretending they believe in the nonsense they write longer than you can believe they're only joking. Such is the Way of the Troll.


I'm not sure if you're joking or not... Regardless, the ban does not affect cell phones.


Joking for sure. When I flew domestic in China people were using their phones the whole time.


I'm aware that using a phone on a plane does no harm, but I just wanted to make sure you didn't actually mean it.


Sure it does. To the cellphone networks. (Unless the aircraft carries its own picocell).

The big problem with cellphones on planes is that they overwhelm the signalling networks on the ground - when the carrier tries to determine which cell is best suited to handle your call, it basically polls the neighbouring cells for the received signal strength from that particular phone. When you're on a plane, your phone is seen from an awful lot of cells.

Also, some systems (GSM, for instance) relies on your velocity compared to the base station not being too large to allocate you a slot in the time-multiplexed channels. Depending on the geometry of the cell network, you may not be able to connect at all when on a plane - but your phone may create all sorts of grief for the network operator.

Or, put another way - if there really was a non-zero probability that a working cellphone on a plane would cause trouble, the TSA would simply collect the phones during boarding and being caught with one would give you the full terrorist treatment.

Given the abundance of cellphones and the sloppiness of people, I think it is probably safe to say that no commercial flight has taken off without at least one active cell-phone aboard for the past twenty years or so.


I'm skeptical that it really causes trouble for phone networks. In my experience flying small airplanes, getting a signal is easy below about 4,000ft, starts getting spotty up to 6,000ft, and is basically impossible above that. Which makes sense: antennas at the cell will be aimed sideways, not up, so the only cells you might be able to talk to would be really far away.

And this is in a fiberglass airplane that's basically radio transparent. Now try it in an aluminum airplane at 30,000+ft. I doubt the cells can even hear your phone in the first place.


-You're quite possibly right - I cannot recall having heard cell phones go off while at cruise, but during approaches it happens if not all the time, then at least every once in a while when I fly somewhere. (Me being a good boy, I've never tried to satisfy my curiosity by keeping the phone on during flights. :))

There's enough radio transparent openings in an aircraft fuselage for it to be a reasonably inefficient faraday cage - say, windows, for instance. (Or are those portholes on an aircraft, too?)


As far as I know they are still called windows. And yes, you'll be able to connect when close to the ground in many cases. The metal body will greatly attenuate signals, but won't block them completely, especially if you're near a window. The lower and slower you are, the more an airborne cell phone will look and act like a normal ground-bound one, so the less of a problem it'll cause for the network.


I wonder, don't cellphone networks have ways to handle it? E.g. if they detect a phone that behaves as if travelling 13km up at 900km/h, couldn't they just tag it as "in flight" and ignore it for the next few minutes?


I don't know, to be honest - I do suspect the problem is much smaller now that 3/4G is a thing, though - higher data rates means smaller cells means more directional antennas, and presumably carriers will not waste energy beaming skyward - so maybe airborne phones don't see as many cells as they used to (if any).

It would be non-trivial to determine the phone's altitude, but you could make a pretty good inference from the number and location of cells reporting that they 'see' it - and the velocity should be a no-brainer to figure out with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Hm.

Just a semi-educated guess. (I haven't looked at cellular systems since I was in university 15-20 years ago.)

Methinks you are probably right.


Except...the cell sites typically use antennas that have a high gain in the veritcal axis, meaning very low gain in the direction of high flying aircraft and a low probably that transmissions from phones inside a faraday cage at said high altitude will rise above its receiver noise threshold.


That's funny because in China it's forbidden to use it even on airplane mode.


Sometimes in China, the thing is not lack for things being forbidden, it's the lack of enforcement culture.


When I came to the US in 2000 it was a fairly optimistic and happy place. Now when I read stuff like this I always get reminded how this country went from pretty open to being scared, irrational and mean in the last 15 or so years.


My personal pet peeve is when people say things like "we live in a dangerous world now". No, we don't. At least, not more dangerous than before (which is the implication). We might be breathlessly focused on some dangers, but those dangers are LESS than before, not more.

I don't want anyone to suffer, and definitely don't want anyone to die. I'm not calling for turning our backs on every idea to improve safety. Just don't apply this safety under the false premise that things are more dangerous than they were.


If you look at terrorism in the UK and Ireland, Islamic extremists are quite safe compared to the IRA. There were estimated to be over 10,000 terrorist bomb attacks due to the Northern Ireland conflicts.


And yet nobody seriously suggested deporting / monitoring all Irish people as a solution...


I wouldn't say nobody did. There was certainly enough anti-Irish racism to wrongly convict people (Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven). And the goal of the Loyalists was not so much to "deport" Catholics living in NI - they were after all born there and British nationals - but to force them to leave. Ethnic cleansing.

The whole thing was a much smaller scale than Syria, but still generated a "flood" of refugees: http://www.thejournal.ie/northern-refugees-ireland-state-pap...

The situation was very weird - a civil war within the UK, effectively, complete with troops on the street and armed checkpoints - but only in very specific areas. A quasi-democracy operated: Gerry Adams MP was permitted to be elected but not allowed to speak on television. Bobby Sands was elected while in prison.


That's mostly true, but Irish men did come in for a lot of extra screening at airports, being taken into rooms for interrogation and so on. Particularly young Irish men with longer hair. R

Rightwing reporting of incidents did a lot to drive anti Irish sentiment, leading to forced confessions by innocent Irish people for terrorist attacks like in Bermingham and Guilford.

Political leaders who liked to use zero tolerance rhetoric like Margaret Thatcher did a lot to help the IRA recruitment cause.

It was different, but not completely different to what we see now in the US.

By coincidence onetime IRA commander Martin McGuinness died today, a man who's conversion to pursuit of political aims through diplomatic conciliation rather than hardline methods is one of the great examples of how the former works better to end conflicts.


But the IRA were white so there is nothing to fear /s


I always liked to point "we live in a dangerous world now" folks here: http://www.vrc.crim.cam.ac.uk/vrcresearch/paperdownload/manu... - in particular the graph on the third page.


How the hell would they get accurate crime stats from 1200? A year so long ago that I feel the need to suffix it with "AD".


Homicides are easy to document, and those are the stats used in the graphs. It's other crimes that are difficult to compare.

Find an old source saying "Blimey, we hath hadd 200 of thee black cryme of murder thys annus!" and cross-reference it against recorded population at the time, and there's your homicide rate.


Let's be honest here. Osama Bin Laden won. The US as we knew it pre-911 doesn't exist anymore. He caused it, but the worst thing about it is that we did it to ourselves. First Bush, then Obama and now Trump is putting the nail in the coffin.


The US lost, but the US still supports Israel, still has troops in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East, and still supports various anti-Islamist fighters around the world, so no, Osama bin Laden did not achieve his goals.


He didn't win, but the US did lose.


If bin Laden's victory condition was "many overly-reductive Americans bemoaning negative events in their nation's existence by parroting that the sky is irreversibly falling, throwing in the entire towel, forgetting or never bothering to study several existential threats to the United States in its brief history, and shrugging that our doom is all due to a Big Bad who managed to take down the world's occasionally most powerful nation with four airliners," then sure, he won. Since it wasn't, your comment is pretty much meaningless despite its appearance of wisdom.

It's weird, for all this terminal rhetoric I read about the end of America I still drove to work this morning and still had faith in American values, not to mention a crazy belief that what's right will ultimately prevail in the face of great adversity. What's more, I feel uniquely empowered as an American to roll up my sleeves and create the America I want to see and believe is good for the rest of us, and I didn't even need Gandhi to teach me that one.

I guess I need a sandwich board instead, because what's the point? Are we merely South Canada now, waiting for an eventual invasion that will take our economic, military, scientific and cultural leadership away, leaving a skeleton of a sovereign state that barely made it out of puberty? What coffin do you think Trump is building? I'm about as disapproving of the current administration as you can get, but I've also studied just enough of the world to understand that things tend to endure, even when the situation looks most hopeless to all involved.

Look at the Big Bads that the British survived throughout their centuries of history. Sure, Pax Britannica and their colonial adventures around the world have come to a close, but I don't see any comments saying "the world won, Britain lost, might as well yield the Crown and just absorb into the EU." Nope: they still fight for what they believe to be good and properly British, including giving the finger to the rest of Europe when they feel it necessary. We should learn from that example, of those with the learned memory of an empire from which they descend, deflated by the world changing around it, yet avoiding the adoption of a fatalist nostalgia that impedes all progress and hope for the future.

If the British aren't a good example, look at the Germans who still live in the punchline of uncomfortable jokes. They're still here, still making some mean beer, and still a valuable member of the world. Not even a particularly misguided government pissing off the entire planet could get rid of a German ideal that lived in its citizens' hearts, and they had a God damned wall down the middle in the wake of that mess to constantly remind them of how hopeless it got.

We are due to be knocked down a couple more pegs than we already are. If you're of the mind to give up when that happens, then you can identify yourself as a member of the "winning" army. Saying UbL won and giving up makes him win. How do you not see that?


Let's put it this way: 9/11 achieved exactly what was intended - it sent the US into a tailspin, and it's dragging the rest of the first world down with it. The current condition of US politics wrt. terrorism is best described as acute case of autoimmune disease. The damage of overreaction being much, much worse than the original attack.

That doesn't mean Bin Laden won - history is not a game, the round didn't end yet. US can still recover - if it choses to.


I'd actually argue that Bin Laden failed terribly at his stated goal - he wanted to make Americans stop for a second and consider why they are being targeted, and then hopefully discover all the atrocities their own government has inflicted on Bin Laden's people, and well, hopefully revolt.

But America in general didn't spend even a second considering this.

https://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/wcpls/z/c5cabqo


Well I suppose, in a sense, it would be wrong to significantly change our behavior towards alignment with OBL's goals. That would probably trigger a lot more terrorism.


Well, yes, of course. I'm not saying that we should have aligned with his goals - but the world certainly failed to get why the attack was done in the first place - for most, it only had a religious motivation, or they think that terrorists hate American freedom so they had to attack.

Like the comment I linked says - terrorist goal wasn't that you get patted down when traveling, or surrendering your privacy to the encroaching surveillance state. Those are goals of the US government, and here, the government is winning. The terrorists however, are definitely not.


This is the correct answer. We overreacted, sure, but we did not react the way he wanted. I could not agree more with that (excellent) commenter about cheapening the situation.


Reframing the point from "sky is falling" to "tailspin" doesn't make the point correct. There is absolutely no indicator that the United States of America is in a tailspin and numerous indicators to the contrary. Just like there are people who believe our world supremacy to be unchallenged, others believe the challenging of our world supremacy is fatal and destroying the world. It isn't. Stop saying it is, or it'll start being true.

I am aware some feel that erosion of civil liberties in response to terrorism has destroyed what they feel to be America. We are still having a conversation about those very flaws and I'm not blindfolded before a firing squad for having an unacceptable opinion, so I think the rumors of America's death are greatly exaggerated by those who benefit the most from her continued protections. Before terrorism, it was communism^. We grow out of things because eventually sanity wins out. It always does.

Do not take that to mean it's time to kick back. Quite the opposite: sanity wins because people choose to be sane en masse.

^ The trend line on irrational national fears is interesting. After terrorism should be nice.


> When I came to the US in 2000 it was a fairly optimistic and happy place. Now....

I've been thinking about that, and trying to put my finger on when things changed, and I realized it's not the US that changed, it's the internet!

Every single complaint and little thing now has a wide wide audience. The good stuff does not however, since it's [relatively] boring.

Talk to some people 40+ and ask them when they thought things went downhill, then ask them when they started using social networks.


On the A16Z podcast someone made the great suggestion that as the news cycle shortens the news gets more negative. Good things and progress tends to happen on a longer time down but in the long run wins out. Imagine a news paper that gets published every hundred years. Yes, it would certainly cover the world wars, 9/11, probably the cold war. However, massive increases in life expectancy, decrease in poverty, decrease in violent deaths from crime or war, incredible scientific progress would overshadow almost everything dreadful we are concerned about on a daily basis. It probably would be mostly uplifting to read such a news paper. Our news cycle instead is down to a point where it's hard to imagine it could get any shorter.


I would give all my upvotes to this if I could.


I'm 40+ and can tell you exactly when things started going down hill: September 11, 2001.

We were told the world had changed and that we had to fear the unknown. We have been a nation of frightened children ever since.


"I'm 40+ and can tell you exactly when things started going down hill: September 11, 2001."

older, 22 Nov '63.


Nearly 36 here, and I concur. Everyone's been clothed in fear ever since.


Those of us who are 50+ remember The threat of nuclear war, and 60+ remember the reality of the Cuban Missile Crisis. When you've lived through "100 Million people could die in the next 24 hours" (like was a real possibility during the Cuban Missile Crisis), the current threat level just makes people look like panicked children.


That is still the case w/r/t nuclear war, we just don't worry about it anymore... all it takes is one false alarm.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Soviet_nuclear_false_al...

We still need to worry about that. We seemingly keep adding things to worry about, antibiotic resistance, climate change, big data, and not solving many. Hmm.


Yes but then Communism fell. We all saw the wall come down and expected the world to be less fearful.

I remember being a kid in the 1980s and my dad explained why there were air raid sirens.

And then the wall fell and all was peaceful until around September 11. For some reason the regular Irish troubles never really registered.


I would put that first number at 35+ or so. I'm 36 and the threat of nuclear war was a vivid part of my childhood.

It's really hard to understand how we went from tolerating MAD to freaking out about a handful of people with box cutters in only a decade. I guess people have really short memories.


mid-40s here, and I remember growing up under the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction. "a terrorist might get a small pocket of us" as a national fear is small-fry compared to "a superpower might lay permanent waste to our entire country"...

... and while terrorist strikes do happen and nuclear war doesn't, the fear of terrorist strikes is much greater than the danger they represent.


With each passing day, I become even more satisfied with my decision to leave the United States behind.

It's sad to watch the country I was born in dying, but it's a lot safer doing so on the other side of the world.


This started before 2000. I'd say we were going in a good directios .

Then someone had the idea to treat corporations as people and legalize bribery. Leadership sets the tone as they say in corporations, so what kind of tone do greedy politicians set?

Our upward progress was doomed to stall bigly thanks to that decision.


>2000

I see. You missed out on the Reagan years.


A lot of this seems to be in the last 3 months


Note that some airlines, like Delta, do not allow computers or lithium batteries in checked luggage (for example: https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/ba... && https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/ba...) so this essentially means that other than phones, these things are completely banned and will have to be shipped separately or not shipped at all.

EDIT: Also, no airline that I know of will insure these items when checked in for more than $100 on international flights (please correct if I'm wrong). So if you can get them in at all, like the article says, they will be stolen.


> Note that some airlines, like Delta, do not allow computers or lithium batteries in checked luggage [...] so this essentially means that other than phones, these things are completely banned and will have to be shipped separately or not shipped at all.

This is incorrect, only spare batteries aren't allowed in checked baggage, computers are fine. From your second link [1]:

> Lithium ion batteries installed in a personal electronic device can be transported as checked or carry on baggage. Lithium ion batteries not installed in a device (spares) must be in carry-on baggage and no more than two (2) spares between 100 and 160 watt hours are allowed.

[1] https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/ba...


The first link says: "Computers or computer-related equipment are not allowed as checked baggage. You can, of course, bring your laptop computers as carry-on." It's unclear between the two links which one applies. Anyway, I'd check with the airline before trying to check in such equipment.


The Big 4 Middle East/Gulf airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Turkish) have been giving legacy US carriers a lot of grief lately, since they're both cheaper and better on essentially all counts, so I can't help but wonder if they have their finger in the pie here. Few businessmen will opt to fly long-haul if they can't use their laptops, and they're specifically targeting 9 airlines here, not just airports or countries.

It's also beyond bizarre that the US trusts Abu Dhabi's security enough to locate its only Middle Eastern Customs/Immigration preclearance facility, but not enough to let passengers who have gone through security bring tablets...


[duplicate comment, admins merged two stories]


>Plus, can confirm that the ME airlines are highly competitive

Very, they are subsidized by their governments.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2015/03/airline-subs...


Guess the US government should do the same. You either play by the rules of the game, or don't play altogether.


They could work together to rewrite the rules of the game to be better for everyone. But since the G20 just had to take out wording about the dangers of protectionism to keep the US happy, I'd guess we're going for the tragedy of the commons version.


I'm convinced this ban is motivated by a protectionist desire from the US-based airlines, to dissuade business travelers from flying on Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates and Qatar, which necessarily transit through countries like the UAE.

If you're someone who flies for work, there's no way you're going to take a flight where you can't use your laptop.


Are the listed airlines the only ones that have direct flights to the US?


United and Delta cut their nonstops to Dubai a while back, so yes, most likely.


From my experience, yes, they have covered all of the major airlines in the region.


This is how they implement the Muslim ban. Piece by piece, bit by bit, they make it utterly infuriating for any Muslim person to travel to the US. Next they'll ban absolutely all liquids, or something.


Liquids are already banned to a large extent. You have to buy it inside the terminal after you get security clearance.


In most of the airports (if not all) that I have been lately, there are water refilling stations, usually close to the restrooms or after you pass through the security checkpoint. I usually pass security with my plastic bottle empty, and then refill it with those machines.


" there are water refilling stations, usually close to the restrooms or after you pass through the security checkpoint. "

Done that, security check on one flight I was on at boarding forced all liquids to be emptied.


Dubai does that for some weird reason. They didn't use to until last year though.


Nevermind that, I once tried to board a flight in Dubai with a completely empty water bottle. Just before I boarded the plane, security stopped me and rummaged through my bag for a minute or so as though they were looking for something then just threw my empty bottle out, saying it was not allowed. I was thirsty for the whole flight because of that. They did, however, manage to foil my plan of bringing down an A380 with an empty 200ml bottle.


This. Dubai had some major security theatre.

Get off one plane, go through security to the transit terminal.

Wander around, refill water bottles.

Buy some duty free, get it put in a cardboard box with a ziptie.

Go to gate, go through ticket check, some corridors to gate lounge.

Get cardboard box confiscated and put in a pile of similar looking cardboard boxes.

Asked to empty water bottle... where? You can't turn around. Chug a litre of water.

Have bags 'checked', go into lounge, refill water bottle again.

Pee three times.

Still better than flying through any US airport tho.


This is fine for domestic travel, but not nessesarily for travel to the US. Many of these flights have additional security at the gate just prior to boarding. US is way too paranoid


Given that someone already tried to bring down a plane with a laptop bomb, and was nearly successful, maybe a little less cynicism is justified. Here's the relevant excerpt from the CNN article on this:

>The official said the move is partly based on intelligence that they believe indicates Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is close to being able to hide explosives with little or no metal content in electronic devices in order to target commercial aircraft. It's a particular concern at these airports because of screening issues and the possibility of terrorists infiltrating authorized airport personnel, the official said. Flight and cabin crews are not covered by these new restrictions. In February 2016, a bomb hidden inside a laptop detonated aboard a Daallo Airlines flight out of Mogadishu, Somalia. The bomber was killed and a hole was blown in the side of the fuselage. The aircraft landed safely.


Given it's allowed to check laptops I don't find that very convincing. Some countries/airports do have better checked luggage scanning, but I doubt that's something to rely on with ask of these.


Then why limit it to non-US carriers? Are United planes bomb-proof?


It's not based on carrier, but on the country that the flight originates in. Flights from the affected carriers, originating in other countries, are not subject to the new requirements either.


These things are always presented as a legitimate security measure, whether or not they actually are.


I have no evidence to support this, but one possibility is that they'd like the opportunity to study those devices without the owners' awareness. It sounds a little tinfoil hat, but in the absence of a better explanation (aside from really poor security theater) it starts to look plausible.


Reminds me of something from about fifteen years ago.

I was training getting into R/C helicopters. No, not the toys they sell at the mall but the more sophisticated models flown by R/C pilots. Needless to say, they are not easy to fly. Even with twenty years experience flying R/C airplanes of all kinds I had to start from scratch.

R/C heli's can be very expensive to crash. A set of carbon fiber rotors and related mechanics will easily set you back well of $200. I was intent on learning without crashing. How? Use an R/C flight simulator and log hundreds of hours before flying the real thing.

I was flying back and forth to Europe a bunch during that time. It was only logical to take my flight simulator with me and practice during the long flight. That meant my laptop along with a special full size R/C controller with a USB cord instead of the antenna.

This rig always called attention to itself and was a pretty good conversation starter. I always had to explain what it was while going through security. On two flight the pilot came over to my seat to check out what I was doing. In both cases they asked to see if they could fly the simulated heli. And, sorry to say, in both cases they failed miserably. It was a great way to get 16+ hours of practice.

Not sure I could do that today.


RealFlight? I had a similar control box that used a game port (D-sub) before USB was common.


I have both RealFlight and PhoenixRC. For heli training Phoenix feels better to me. Also, you can use your real RC transmitter to run the simulator, in my case I run JR transmitters. The down side is that you can't (shouldn't) run a real transmitter while flying in an airliner. Yes, when plugged into Phoenix the TX circuitry turns off, but I wouldn't want to answer those questions so I use RealFlight and their dummy transmitter for that purpose.

There's something uniquely geeky about flying in a flight simulator while flying on a real plane. Like I said, good conversation starter.


This affects people from many countries, not just the seven or eight targeted initially. For example, I stay in India, and if I visit the US, I may fly via Dubai.

Which means, in turn, that I'm less likely to visit. Why take a 20-hour flight and subject myself to "extreme vetting"?


likely Homeland Security wants to be able to search the contents of the laptops - easier to do this when they're checked.


On the plus side, it's harder to compel you to decrypt your disk if you're nowhere near it at the time.


On the minus side, they can install malware on your machine without your knowledge (even if your disk is encrypted).


Or a hardware based keystroke logger.


Source? How is it possible to install malware when the disk is encrypted?


VGA, Wifi module, Ethernet controller, BIOS (UEFI), power controller, heck, even battery all have chips inside them capable of running malware as well. It's naive to believe than NSA&co doesn't have its fingers on such techniques (remember Cisco devices interception). Modern laptop/PC is ridden with micro "PCs" all over.


There have been some reports about UEFI-based malware, which can hook into the OS boot process. I guess this could also work even if the disk is encrypted. First Google hit for "UEFI malware":

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2948092/security/hacking-team...


You modify the bootloader to grab the password on next decryption. The bootloader is in cleartext on the disk, otherwise the machine couldn't boot.

More advanced versions would involve modifying the BIOS to add a SMM-mode hook. That way the malware runs completely outside the view of the OS. Alternatively, any device with DMA access could have its firmware altered to read sensitive information from memory.

Physical security is an unsolved problem.


>You modify the bootloader to grab the password on next decryption. The bootloader is in cleartext on the disk, otherwise the machine couldn't boot.

Mine isn't - I have GRUB installed to my BIOS chip, and I decrypt the single encrypted partition from there.

>More advanced versions would involve modifying the BIOS to add a SMM-mode hook.

That one could still get me though, yeah.


Drive firmware exploits have been around for long enough you can do it at home.


In one of the flash chips? Or a hardware module?


You got the prize. Everyone here is trying to attribute a safety reason. This is HS bringing down their budget.


It's probably a new variant of civil forfeiture for the TSA. They just claim you never checked it when grabbing it.


This is just asking for trouble... Between theft and potential battery fires, it almost feels like they want something bad to happen so they can say people coming from these countries are dangerous (using a hull fire as proof).


This is probably a "travel ban" by inconvenience, since the earlier bans were stayed in courts


So, assuming this is because of some credible threat: does that mean DHS thinks that terrorists can't afford a couple of weeks lay-over in Amsterdam or Paris before traveling to the United States?


They might think airport security personnel at Amsterdam or Paris do their job better than their colleagues from those 8 Middle Eastern and North African countries.

And/or they might think Netherlands and France is just as attractive for the terrorists as the US, i.e. the terrorists won’t bother taking that second flight.

BTW, I think Russia should be the 9-th country on that list, as they have long history of sponsoring terrorism.


I'm ignorant of Russia's historical role in sponsoring terrorism; I'm only getting recent Ukraine / Syria links. Can you share some resources to learn more about it?


They are doing that at least since foundation of USSR.

Russians ordered bombings in Warsaw, Poland in 1920-s. Shipped weaponry to Irish Republican Army and Palestine in 70-s. Speaking about Palestine, some say Russians have invented plane hijacking as a terrorist tactic: http://web.archive.org/web/20130102051626/http://www.nationa...

Killed many political opponents abroad, Alexander Litvinenko in UK, Sulim Yamadaev in UAE, Stepan Bandera in Germany.

If you want more, read books and articles by Stanislav Lunev, Ion Mihai Pacepa, Viktor Suvorov. Those are high-ranking KGB officers who surrendered and were cooperative. Alexander Litvinenko also published stuff about state-sponsored terrorism in modern Russia, but he concentrated on domestic not international.


Thanks! I'm not sure why you were down voted; maybe the down voter could publicly dispute your statement instead.


It could mean the Middle eastern airlines are now safer for you to fly than any other airline? =^D


If it is going to place burdensome carry on restrictions on people the US government could at least explain why the measures are necessary.

At the rate we are going, it's not going to be long before you will not be allowed to bring any carry on luggage at all when flying from certain airports. Maybe everyone should fly naked. Who knows, someone might have plastic explosives sewn into their clothes. Wait, what if someone swallows the explosives? Maybe everyone should be forced to take an emetic and get a colonoscopy before flying.


They did explain why they're necessary. You wouldn't know that from the cynical comments on HackerNews though. From the CNN article about this:

>The official said the move is partly based on intelligence that they believe indicates Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is close to being able to hide explosives with little or no metal content in electronic devices in order to target commercial aircraft. It's a particular concern at these airports because of screening issues and the possibility of terrorists infiltrating authorized airport personnel, the official said. Flight and cabin crews are not covered by these new restrictions. In February 2016, a bomb hidden inside a laptop detonated aboard a Daallo Airlines flight out of Mogadishu, Somalia. The bomber was killed and a hole was blown in the side of the fuselage. The aircraft landed safely.


This makes almost zero sense, and it's likely that there will be zero explanation as to why any of this is necessary.

If there's a threat this only introduces a minor inconvenience to those looking to carry out an attack. Is getting a connecting flight in some country like Germany going to be hard?


This is probably a first step towards a ban on all flights for that exact reason.


... which would increase risk, because battery fires are worse in checked bags than in the main cabin/overheads.


Considering zero fires in carry-on have caused plane crashes, but a non-zero number in cargo have, yeah, basically this makes it way worse.


What utter bullshit.

If they allow phones at all, then the threat cannot be an issue of a passenger sending a command out of one of these. The threat has to be the device itself.

Now, a standard issue iPad is no threat, so we're talking about a customized device made to look like on.

Except, if terrorists are going to the trouble to do this, they can just as easily put whatever bad thing they want to put into the case of an insulin pump, and bypass the ban.

This. Is. Bullshit.


I suspect it's more about expanding the envelope of nation specific bans - the devices being a convenient pretense.


I had a colleague fly through Amman last night. They had him remove 100% of everything from his briefcase and checked everything for bomb residue. If I had to guess, the US has intelligence that someone is going to bring a bomb (or some other weapon) on board a plane using a Laptop Form factor. I'm also guessing that the type of damage one can do with a device in the Cabin is greater than that can be done in the luggage hold (which is why the Laptop can be checked, but not brought through carry on.)

Though, I'm open to the alternative theory that having people place their laptops in checked luggage gives them greater opportunity to do targeted surveillance without their target being aware.


Why not use that intel to catch the person instead of telling him? He can now just use as different airline?


Or just their ass. People can fit amazingly large things in their ass and it would bypass all airport detection. There is no real security with such big loopholes.


Bollocks. That's one thing the millimeter scan will pick up just fine.


No. Millimetre wave (and backscatter x-ray) imagery won't penetrate skin and certainly won't reveal the presence of contraband inside a human.

There's commercially available penetrating X-ray human body security scanners, but afaict those just have been used in prisons, not in airports (yet!).


They are also used in diamond mines. In fact, that's what the LODOX (low dosage x-ray) system was first invented for.


To find diamonds or to scan workers for smuggled diamonds?


Scanning the workers. A full body scan is low enough dosage that it is safe to be scanned every ~3 days (IIRC), so 30% of workers would be randomly selected for a whole body scan each day when they leave the mines.

Since then it has been repurposed for extreme cases like unconscious car crash victims in order to determine the extent of injuries. Or so I learned in a medical imaging elective.

The technology behind it is really cool! By using temporal separation for the different parts of the image they reduce scattering blur, allowing them to use a much lower dose to get the same image quality.


Millimeter scans only happen in US airports -- they're banned in ~Europe~ the EU and not really used anywhere else.

Also you're very wrong. You can defeat a millimeter scan just by placing the contraband between your palms while your hands are clasped above your head.


They are used all over Europe. Maybe some countries have opted not to use them, but I go through them every time I fly. In some cases there might be an opt-out for passengers, but they are certainly not banned.


They're used heavily in Australia too. And I always get picked up by them.

I think the person at the monitor wants to look at my weiner.


> Millimeter scans only happen in US airports -- they're banned in Europe and not really used anywhere else.

were.

https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2014/04/19/bodyscanners-zo-gaat-he...


I can say that I was required to use one to get back into the U.S. while transiting through Schiphol back in October 2013. No opt out, just the scanner and "I'm not forcing you to fly today - you can stay here." Pretty rude, too.

Since then, I always transit through Heathrow. It's a logistical nightmare with all those buses, but they've never coerced me to go through a scanner. Those biometric checkpoints, on the other hand...

[Note: This was with Dutch staff for British Airways; not sure if that's relevant.]


I don't know why you say that, while there are not scanners on every security lane at Heathrow they _cannot_ be refused, there is no pat-down alternative like in the US.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/jan/26/new-body-scanners...


Yes, they can be refused at Heathrow. I did so just a few weeks ago. The alternative process wasn't unpleasant but did feel deliberately inefficient.


I believe this was previously the case, but it is now possible to opt out. I flew from Heathrow (Terminal 2) on Friday, refused the mm-wave scanner and had a pat-down in a private room instead.

From Heathrow's security FAQ page (http://www.heathrow.com/more/help-with-this-website/faqs/sec...):

The only alternative that can be offered to a scanner is a private search which allows for a more extensive hand-search than usual. Passengers will be escorted to a different location in the airport from the main search area (eg a private search room). The private search may involve the loosening and/or removal of clothing. A person undergoing a private search may ask to be accompanied by a witness.

This alternative screening method will take significantly more time than passing through a security scanner.


I experienced this at Schiphol as well, a bit after you. I told them I couldn't because of a medical condition, they gave me a pretty thorough pat-down, and let me on.


You're right, it's just the EU. I fixed my comment.

The point is their technology is terrible and they are easy to defeat, as has been proven many many times.

They are security theater and they were only put in place because the guy in charge of what scanners were allowed at US airports happened to have a financial interest in the company that made the millimeter wave scanner.


> They are security theater and they were only put in place because the guy in charge of what scanners were allowed at US airports happened to have a financial interest in the company that made the millimeter wave scanner.

Yup. I have been to many airports in Africa and SE Asia that have only a metal detector, manned by someone who barely cares enough to stand there, and no one has successfully committed an act of terrorism (a la 9/11) with a plane due to it.

Also when I was traveling in Japan, they had machines that could scan the contents of your water bottle so you didn't have to empty it or throw it away while going through security.

I'm mildly convinced other countries don't have this because the beverage industry can sell more water/soda you're forced to throw it away when you go through security.

I've also stopped arguing about going through the machines. I know they do nothing, but it's not worth the hassle security employees give you to opt out. Just stand there, knowing it's pointless, and move on.


To be fair, the threat model of those countries doesn't include terrorist hijackings. You will surely experience a thorough screening in Israel or Frankfurt.

Every major U.S. airport I've been to in the past 5 years has had ample bottle filling stations.


> You will surely experience a thorough screening in Israel or Frankfurt.

I think Israel is special, because they use behavioural profiling on you as well.

I've been through Frankfurt on an inter-EU flight, and we were put into the priority lane because things were quiet. The priority lane only had (has?) a metal detector, no body scanner.

So if the body scanners were really about security, why would they have a lane that allows you to bypass them completely?

I once flew from Frankfurt to Barcelona without anyone checking my passport (I am not European but have a valid residence permit for an EU country). Did online checkin and printed my boarding pass. No checked luggage, and automated boarding pass scanners at the gate. So yeah, really thorough...


Frankfurt and Barcelona are both in the Schengen zone. Just like you can drive from Austria to Hungary without a passport, you can fly from Germany to Spain without one. It's only on the edge of the zone that they check your passport.


> It's only on the edge of the zone that they check your passport.

I am aware. My point wasn't clear. I wasn't surprised I was not asked for my passport, however I was surprised I was able to fly from Germany to Spain without anyone verifying I was the person my boarding pass said I was.

I could have given my ticket to a friend and they would have been able to fly under my name, because at no point did anyone ask for government ID to confirm I was the same person as my boarding pass.

I value the freedom of movement Europeans have very highly, but it just goes to show how dead easy it is for someone to travel undetected (e.g. have an associate buy your ticket).


If you are flying to a destination outside the Schengen zone from Frankfurt, you have a strong chance of receiving a close frisk. The frisk is far beyond what is acceptable in U.S. culture and norms.


> I'm mildly convinced other countries don't have this because the beverage industry can sell more water/soda you're forced to throw it away when you go through security.

That makes sense, Japanese airports have distinctly non-airport prices for food and drinks even past security.


Anecdata: Japanese airport staff are also humans, and treat you like a fellow human. Most pleasant immigration experiences I've had were at Narita. My own country (AU) treats me like a criminal on _departure_.


Who's the guy you mention? It's hard to find the right search terms to look it up, and I haven't heard that story before.


Rapiscan, the maker of the device, was a client of Michael Chertoff's consulting company, and he was the head of Homeland Security when the scanners were put in place by his department.


And if you care about your radiation dose (some of us do) you will opt for a molestation rather than a zap.


Uh, no. Many physicists don't like the now-discontinued X-ray backscatter machines, but the mm wave devices are not ionizing radiation. Some guy explained why non-ionizing radiation isn't a problem in 1905; won the Nobel Prize for it, too.


> but the mm wave devices are not ionizing radiation

The science is still out on whether it's harmful or not. I got TSA pre so I can just avoid it, but before that I always opted out.


The science is only still out if you believe that mobile phones are causing cancer as well- ie for those who can't, or refuse, to understand science. For everyone else it's throughly settled


Sorry, what?

"The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Its major goal is to identify causes of cancer. The IARC has classified RF fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” based on limited evidence of a possible increase in risk for brain tumors among cell phone users, and inadequate evidence for other types of cancer."

I would not call that "thoroughly settled".


Good chat, despite it's mildly aggressive nature. Here's what:

So, an organisation that basically labels everything in the world as either a potential carcinogen or carcinogen [0] when the second lowest score they award still reads as 'potential carcinogen' is more powerful than actual evidence, accrued across enormous longitudinal studies, first from scandinavia [1] but backed significantly by australia [2] and integrated into a plausable mechanism for increases in >70 year olds [3] combined with a finding that would actually revolutionise physics and biology for suggesting a new mechanism for the interaction of electromagnetism and biology?

Alarmists are everywhere [4]. But that doesn't mean they are right. It's easy to listen to fear, but just because someone is screaming and crying doesn't make them right. Serious claims deserve to be looked at seriously, and this one has been throughly examined, in research that is continuing. And it continues to be debunked by huge datasets - not just the referenced studies but also the million woman study [5][6] and others.

So yes, I repeat, for anyone versed in science, physics and with their head screwed on straight, the science is settled, and I challenge you to demonstrate either a mechanism or a throughly vetted dataset that proves otherwise. And i'll remind you that hitting the first answer on google does not constitute research.

[0] http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/299632-cha...

[1] https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d6387

[2] http://www.cancerepidemiology.net/article/S1877-7821(16)3005...

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15378499

[4] http://theconversation.com/new-study-no-increase-in-brain-ca...

[5] http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2014/05/14/back-in-t...

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24078152


Thank you for the information, very interesting. Increased inflammatory response seems a reasonable potential mechanism:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994795/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25251956

Perhaps it doesn't cause cancer per se, but promotes tumor growth or otherwise creates a more favorable environment.


It's a pretty thin bow to draw, but could be - so could general increase in average population blood glucose as more of the population suffers from metabolic disorder/T2DM but again that's promoting tumour growth not necessarially causing cancer.. and there certainly isn't enough evidence to say that. Studies are continuing but again when early weak studies show a positive result, and later good studies show no result, the chance of drawing a positive p value become lower and lower


I tried researching this a while back and opted for the molestation (at least one qualified for that term). I recently went back to zapping out of cumulative annoyance. Any good resources that review the radiation type and dose?


I agree with you completely. Banning the devices is really not going to do anything but piss off customers (maybe make a few feel safer).


It's going to put laptops in the baggage where they can be pulled out and their data dumped for dragnet surveillance.


As much as I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, there's just not enough time for that, with the timing as tight as it is. A particular target with a focused scan, sure. Mass surveillance dragnet? No way. Not unless the NSACIAFBI have a way of dumping a hard drive without turning on the machine at speeds faster than a disk can even dump itself.

(Try pouring out your​ biggest spinning rust drive out over any port that can keep up with the drive. It takes hours nowadays. SSDs can bottleneck at the port instead of the drive, but you can't count on your target having one yet, nor can you count on the fastest ports being available. And we're certainly not going to mass-disassemble laptops to dump their drives.)


On the other hand, installing simple "retro-reflector" bugs for future use is a possibility.

[0] https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/06/building_retr...


Keep you busy at CBP, keep the bag from the belt when you first land... plenty of opportunities to physically attack the device when the person can't keep it on them and keep an eye on it.


To both of your who replied, yes, there are various other attacks, but that's a different issue that what I was replying to.

And, still, at bulk these things aren't feasible, or even necessary. You're not taking your cynicism far enough. Why does the government need to sorta kinda hope that you might maybe take a flight with your gear someday when they're already capturing all your email and web browsing anyhow? It's a ridiculous theory that you're only entertaining because our trust has decayed to the point that the mere fact that something is an accusation against our government is all but proof that it must be true, no matter how silly it is.

No, the government is not going to set out to physically attack every laptop passing through an airport, because what would that give them that they don't already have, except huge operational costs and risk of detection?


> maybe make a few feel safer

Or maybe make even more feel yet more in fear of terrorists. Which the cynic in me thinks might be the point


That's some strong criticism, especially since you're not even considering that someone already successfully detonated a laptop bomb on a plane.

From the CNN article on this new policy: >The official said the move is partly based on intelligence that they believe indicates Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is close to being able to hide explosives with little or no metal content in electronic devices in order to target commercial aircraft. It's a particular concern at these airports because of screening issues and the possibility of terrorists infiltrating authorized airport personnel, the official said. Flight and cabin crews are not covered by these new restrictions. In February 2016, a bomb hidden inside a laptop detonated aboard a Daallo Airlines flight out of Mogadishu, Somalia. The bomber was killed and a hole was blown in the side of the fuselage. The aircraft landed safely.


Would you please not repeat the same thing over and over? This is excessive.


I think you've posted this like 15 times in this comment section. This is a terrible argument: what happens when next month someone hides a bomb in a bottle of liquor, or a child's toy, or an iPhone? This kind of reactive security is a sure way to inconvenience everyone and not actually improve security in any meaningful way. Every security professional knows that if you only "fix" the narrow cases that have caused problems in the past, you will never prevent another attack. I don't know what a better solution looks like, because I'm not an expert on counterterrorism or explosives detection, but this certainly isn't it.


I imagine that a bomb in a bottle of liquor is not easy to conceal from a scanner. On the other hand, I can see a laptop "battery" being a great vehicle for an explosive hidden in plain sight. There's also immediate threats to think about. If you have intelligence about an imminent attack by a certain method, you can stop it with targeted reactive measures. Good security requires both proactive and reactive approaches.


The point made was that it's idiotic because bombs can be shoved into anything. Copy pasting the same bit about the likely existence of laptop bombs only matters if you believe that 1. it's harder to use something other than a laptop, or 2. moving a bomb to the luggage compartment will help.


Moving a small bomb to the luggage compartment does help, because it is not pressurized. I'll grand that much.

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