How writers can get around the iPad ban (or at least how we did)

Steve and I had our first encounter with iPad-deprived travel on our return from this past trip, which required us first to fly from Entebbe (Uganda) to Dubai, and then from Dubai to Los Angeles. Dubai International Airport was on the first list of those that the US government targeted for restricting electronic devices in the passenger compartment (along with Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jidda and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates). This week there’s been talk that the ban is likely to be extended to flights from Europe to America. Maybe folks who use their laptops and tablets for entertainment don’t find all this too burdensome; the big jets typically offer so much in the way of movie and game choices these days. But Steve and I both typically spend a lot of air time writing, so to us it threatened to be a disaster. Happily, we found a way around it.

Although we always take only carry-on luggage, Emirates restricts the allowable weight to only 7 kilograms (a bit more than 15 pounds), so we were told in Entebbe that we had to check our suitcases through to LAX (even though we had a 10-hour layover in Dubai and were sleeping in a hotel near the airport.) We insisted that we needed our iPads on the flight to Dubai, however, and the agent assured us there’d be a way to check them by themselves on the flight from Dubai to the US.

This enabled me to write my final blog post (about our experience in Uganda) on that flight. So I was happy. At the Dubai airport on Tuesday morning, we waltzed through security with our iPads, but at the gate, we had to queue up to have our hand luggage inspected by guards who looked for the taboo electronic gear.


We weren’t surprised that they told us we had to take our iPads and Steve’s camera to another table staffed by Emirates employees who filled out forms and carefully packed our gadgets in bubble wrap and put them into cardboard boxes.

What they did NOT impound, however, was the separate Apple keyboard that I had schlepped along for the whole trip. It can be synched (via Bluetooth) with Apple devices — including the iPhone. So that’s how Steve rigged up a writing system. Using the Notes app on his phone, he spent at least 10 of the 15.5 hours of the flight typing up all his thoughts and notes about our visit with the granny groups. He periodically backed up his work by Airdropping the file to my iPhone.


We both had to admit that Emirates was remarkably efficient about getting the devices back to us in LA.  No more than 15 minutes after we reached the baggage claim area, there all the checked electronics were, our box among them.


We’re still wondering if it’s really true that anyone can pack a bomb into an iPad that continues to be operational. And we wonder why a bomb in the luggage hold of an Airbus 380 would be less disastrous than one in the passenger compartment. But what do we know?

Eban happy Steve.jpeg