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Joining The (most unfun) Party: Now Qatar Offers Free Laptops To Counter US Carry On Ban

Well there seems to be a real…competition…shall we say, to show who can best the other amongst airlines who have been affected by the carry on ban of electronics for flights bound for the United States.

Thus far we wrote about the initial confirmation and also wrote about what Etihad (amongst others) are doing to compensate passengers for the inconvenience of not being able to bring their electronic devices on board – most all these flights are long hauls, so it does really mess with business passengers who banked on getting work done on their flight back home or to a business meeting on the other side.

While the various airlines involved have tried in their own ways to deal with the new restrictions, Qatar just upped the ante (as they are wont to do).

The Scoop:

Doha (DOH) based Qatar Airways (QR) has just announced that they will be offering laptops to all Business Class passengers on US bound flights, offering a comparable (read: enhanced) offering to what rival Etihad just announced. Laptops will be doled out after doors are closed in Doha and will be collected back by a designated member of the cabin crew prior to landing at your destination in the United States. All Qatar Airways aircraft have power ports so battery power shouldn’t present a problem. Also keep in mind that Qatar doesn’t offer a First Class product to the United States so this only applies to Business Class passengers.

The oneworld member airline also announced that WiFi will now also be offered free of charge on these flights. Furthermore, flights operated by the A350-900 will feature ‘enhanced’ WiFi for better speed and access in flight. This aircraft operates Qatar’s flights to Boston and Philadelphia. No word yet on the offering on the 777, which theoretically has a bigger Business cabin so would be more useful. 

The service begins ‘later next week’ according to the airline, and will be in effect as long as the ban continues to be instituted. It isn’t clear what type of laptops are being made for use and what security procedures the airline has taken into place to implement this new service for the select amount of flights.

Passengers  will also retain the ability to keep their own laptops for as long as possible prior to boarding.

DOH, Doha Airport, Doha, Hamad International Airport

The new laptop loanee service only applies on flights originating at Qatar Airways’ hub at Hamad International Airport, Doha to all US destinations. Image Credit: WikiCommons

The Takeaway:

Well given the unfortunate (and can we say dumb?) situation these airlines find themselves in, this is as best a solution one could find to offset the annoyance of the airline’s premium passengers.

Qatar addressed the problem we had previous mentioned regarding the Etihad service and WiFi – this ‘enhanced’ offering, whatever it is – should go some ways to help with speeds given that more people will be on it most likely. But keep in mind it’s only offered on A350 services to Boston and Philadelphia. QR’s other services to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami, all of whom get the 777, will have to deal with most likely substandard speeds. 

The other thing is what kind of laptops will be offered – that hasn’t been made clear. Our guess is that it’ll be either Lennovo ThinkPads or MacBooks or perhaps even both, but some clarity on the matter would be beneficial for all involved.

Finally, our last question is regarding how many laptops will be loaded on for each flight. Qatar hasn’t made it clear, just that they will ‘offer’ laptops on these US bound flights. Is that 3 or 4, or one per passenger, or 10-15? Things could become messy on a full 777-300ER service with 42 business class seats. If this were to happen, how will these units be distributed? The obvious choice would be Qatar then oneworld status passengers first, then what? If you’re sitting towards the front of the cabin, does that put you at an advantage? Is it even worth it to expect this service if you don’t have status with the airline if QR only loads three or four units per flight? Of course this could all be moot if the airline loads one per passenger, but Qatar hasn’t made that clear as of yet.

So this leaves Emirates the last of the big 3 Middle Eastern airlines not to offer a similar service. Word on the street is that the airline is considering a similar type of service but has a whole set of different logistical worries to get over – not least just the sheer scale of their services to the United States in comparison to Etihad and Qatar. Emirates flies to far more destiantion in the country than the other two, and also offers far more frequencies per destination. Even going past that, a bulk of their American services are operated by their A380 fleet, which at 12 First Class seats and 76 Business Class seats per flight, attempting to offer this service becomes a real logistical test. We see it as pretty unlikely Emirates will offer any temporary offering like what Qatar and Etihad are doing. 

Either way, despite the situation being as clear as mud, much like what we said about Etihad it’s a nice token gesture of Qatar to offer this service. We’re just not sure yet how effective it will be or how the logistics will pan out.

Is Qatar back on your to ‘to fly’ list with this new move of theirs? Would take advantage of their laptops to do work, or would you be hesitant to utilize public access laptops to read and send your emails and perhaps other sensitive work related exchanges. Is it even worth the airline’s trouble to be doing this? 

Featured Image Credit: WikiCommons

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