In the wake of the new ban on bringing electronic devices into the cabin on flights from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa, now might be a good time to make sure your clients are up to date on the ins and outs of insuring expensive electronic devices in their checked luggage.
“Travelers will have to check their devices in checked baggage, increasing the devices’ vulnerability to loss or theft,” Max Leitschuh, an airline safety analyst at risk management solutions provider iJET International, tells Travel Agent, noting that some companies have policies prohibiting employees from packing laptops in checked bags for this reason. Additionally, packing laptops in checked luggage will prevent clients from working during their flight.
“Travel agents should consult with clients to see if either of these impacts is a major concern,” says Leitschuh. “If the client is concerned, travel agents should try to re-route travelers to avoid connections through airports or countries affected by the ban.”
What should travel agents do to help clients keep their valuables safe?
“Travel insurance doesn’t always cover lost, stolen or damaged electronics devices like your mobile phone or laptop, so it’s important to check your description of coverage or call your travel insurance provider if you have questions,” says Bob Chambers, VP of operations at CSA Travel Protection.
CSA Travel Protection provided Travel Agent with these five tips to share with clients:
- Write down what you packed in your checked baggage or take a picture. This way it’s easier to report it to your travel insurance provider should something get lost or stolen.
- After you check your bags, be sure to keep an eye on them as they go down the conveyer belt. And when you arrive after your trip, try to get to baggage claim as soon as possible to claim them. This limits the time that someone could take your bag or tamper with it.
- Protect your electronics devices with proper padding. You can even use your clothes to cushion the impact, but be sure to follow TSA’s regulations so that they can inspect your luggage as needed.
- Utilize a luggage forwarding service for events where key electronics are critical (eg, business events, trade shows).
- Consider using a luggage tracking device, CSA Travel Protection’s sister company in Italy offers Lugloc as a service: https://lugloc.com/2016/12/breakthrough-travel-insurance-innovation-launching-ces-2017/
- If your travel insurance policy doesn’t cover lost, stolen or damaged electronics, then consider leaving them at home or bringing older versions (tablets, E-readers, etc) for travel. Ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. If you do decide to bring them, then back everything up before you go.
“Not wanting to fly because of the electronics ban would not be a covered reason to cancel a trip,” says Director of Communications at Allianz Global Assistance Daniel Durazo. “Travel insurance does include coverage for lost, stolen and damaged baggage, so customers could file a claim related to electronics packed in their baggage and they would be covered up to the limit of their policy.”
“The recently announced ban on tablets, laptops, cameras and other electronics on flights originating from select Middle Eastern gateways is sure to face public backlash as passengers simply don’t trust the airlines to handle delicate electronics,” says Jason Schreier, CEO for APRIL Travel Protection’s Miami-based U.S. headquarters. “Beyond the convenience of accessing personal electronics onboard, many passengers are reluctant to pack these expensive devices in their checked luggage—and with good reason.”
Schreier noted that many travel insurance policies have low reimbursement limited for electronics, and some policies do not cover tablets or laptops.
“Travel agents should advise affected passengers to limit the total dollar value of checked devices to the $500 coverage maximum for electronics hidden in the fine print within in many travel protection policy agreements, Schreier says. “Above all else, the most important rules to remember when comparing travel insurance policies are ‘never make assumptions, fully read coverage agreements and always look at the fine print.”
Travel Industry Weighs In
Meanwhile, major airlines and travel industry groups are weighing in on the impact of the decision.
“We are closely monitoring the business impact of this new security measure, and we will decide on our strategies and interventions accordingly,” Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, which flies through some of the affected airports, tells Travel Agent. “The airline industry is no stranger to new security protocols, and as a global player, we must expect and adjust to these unexpected situations. Emirates is highly resilient. Yes, this new security measure is disruptive and operationally challenging in several regards, but I am optimistic we will get through this.”
“Safety and security remain the highest priority for Etihad Airways and we will continue to assist passengers in complying with this directive,” the airline said in a statement provided to Travel Agent.
Other travel industry groups have also expressed concerns about putting electronics in checked luggage.
“TSA has implored travelers for years not to put valuables in their checked baggage because of theft and damage from handling,” the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) said in a written release. “Now in addition to $1,000 laptops, tablets, E-readers, portable DVD players, electronic game units, travel printers/scanners and cameras will have to be checked. Photojournalists traveling on business will have to check equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars. No doubt leisure and business travelers will now have to take risks in checking these valuables.”
The BTC also noted that the ban applies to travelers who board at a different airport and route through one of the affected airports immediately before arriving in the U.S. That means that, if a traveler is boarding in an unaffected airport like Ahmedabad, India, that connects through one of the affected airports, they will have to check their electronics in India for the entire flight.
At the same time, the U.S. Travel Association emphasized the need to balance security concerns with minimizing the disruption to travel.
“The American travel community supports efforts to make flying more secure,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella in a written release. “We urge the federal government to make every effort to minimize disruption to legitimate travelers by clearly and quickly articulating the details of the new policy to enforcement personnel and the flying public. Even with security as a justification, it does not absolve authorities of the responsibility to communicate.”
The U.S. Travel Association also called on the government to continually reassess the new policy to ensure that it remains relevant and effective.