Electronics ban on flights to US. EU to require visas of US? Step toward Brexit.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the May 2017 issue.

Dating from 1900, this water tower sits above the Old Town in Bydgoszcz, Poland. It once provided water to the city’s upper terrace, but today it’s a museum and visitors can tour its observation gallery at the top. Photo: ©rognar/123rf.com
Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 495th issue of your monthly foreign-travel magazine.

If this is the first time you’ve held a copy of International Travel News (ITN), I hope you like what you see: candid reports on tours, hotels, airlines and destinations written by our subscribers, people with a love for travel.

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So leaf through the pages and see what we have to offer, then turn to page 9 to see how to subscribe and join some of the most-traveled people in the world. We want to hear about YOUR travels, too.

In addition to presenting everyone’s trip reports, we print hard news of interest to travelers. Headlines about air travel, for instance.

On March 20, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an order that affects all travelers on certain flights.

All electronic devices larger than a cell phone are banned from the carry-on luggage of passengers on flights of nine national airlines based in eight Muslim-majority countries if, and only if, the flights are direct to the United States from any of 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

The airlines are EgyptAir, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudia and Turkish Airlines.

The affected airports, which include some of the busiest and most  popular in the world, are Cairo International Airport, Egypt; Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan; Kuwait International; Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco; Hamad International, Doha, Qatar; King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Istanbul Atatürk Airport, Turkey; Abu Dhabi International, UAE, and Dubai International, UAE.

The ban, which has been considered for some time, is a cautionary move in response to credible intelligence warning that a terrorist group was attempting to create explosives that could be hidden inside personal electronic devices. (Qatar Airways announced on March 31 that they would provide laptops for business-class passengers to use on flights to the US.)

The DHS gave the airlines until March 25 to comply with the order. While there was no official announcement about when the requirement for passengers to transport personal electronics only in their checked baggage would end, Emirates indicated it would be in effect until mid-October at the earliest.

The electronics ban is not related to President Trump’s executive travel-ban orders (which I will discuss below), and it does not include any airports in or airlines based in the countries that were named in those executive orders. 

The United Kingdom announced an identical electronics ban the day after the US ban was enacted but also included flights to the UK from Lebanon and Tunisia.

There are a great number of flights direct to the UK from the 10 countries on its electronics-ban list, so the list of airlines affected by the UK’s carry-on restriction also includes Atlasglobal, British Airways, easyJet, Jet2.com, Middle East Airlines, Monarch, Pegasus Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomson Airways and Tunisair.

There are no direct flights from Lebanon or Tunisia to the US.

On March 3, President Trump signed his second executive order banning citizens of selected Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for the next 90 days. There are six countries covered in the current ban: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. (Iraq, included in the first attempted ban, was not included in the second.) 

The order also immediately banned ALL refugees from entering the US for 120 days from that date.

Much like the president’s first executive order, regional federal courts (in this case, courts in Hawaii and Maryland) suspended the order pending further review, leaving the enforcement of the ban in question.

In response to the attempts to ban Iran’s citizens from traveling to the US, Iran’s foreign ministry announced that, regardless of the US court decisions, it will not grant travel visas to US travelers. 

The Iranian Interests section of the Embassy of Pakistan (which handles all Iranian consulate matters in the US) clarified that anyone who already had a travel visa for Iran before the most recent ban was announced would still be allowed to visit Iran.

Yet another decree —

On March 3, the European Union (EU) Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the rescinding of visa-free travel for US citizens to EU countries.

Back in 2014, the EU notified the US that if Americans wanted to maintain their visa-free travel privilege, the US would have to end its visa requirements for the citizens of five EU countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. The US has maintained those visa requirements, however.

The EU Parliament cites two factors in calling for requiring visas from US travelers. The first, the “visa reciprocity mechanism,” states, “… if a third country does not lift its visa requirements within 24 months of being notified of nonreciprocity, the EU Commission must adopt a delegated act… suspending the visa waiver for its nationals for 12 months.” 

The second factor is that the EU demands equal treatment for all of its member states, so it expects those five countries to be treated with the same consideration as its other 23 member countries.

Four other countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada and Japan — were given the same notification at the same time. Australia, Brunei and Japan all have complied with the EU’s request, while Canada is expected to comply in December 2017.

The EU Parliament has given the European Commission (which is in charge of border policy) two months either to achieve visa-free travel to the US for citizens of those five EU countries or to enforce visa restrictions on US travelers to Europe.

A member of the commission stated that it is unlikely to do either at this time. However, if you’re planning to visit Europe this summer, pay close attention to any news on this front.

In an announcement made on March 28 in the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May notified the European Union that Britain would be leaving that organization, signifying the beginning of exit negotiations. 

This was the much-anticipated “Article 50” moment that reporters had been anticipating since the British public voted for the “Brexit” (Britain’s exit from the EU) on June 23, 2016. 

Article 50 refers to the portion of the EU charter that deals with the prospect of countries leaving the union. It states that any country that wants to leave must formally notify all member states of its intent before exit negotiations can begin. In Britain’s case, they hope to begin negotiations right away.

Brexit is expected to take at least two years to hash out, so it’s likely that the complete withdrawal of the UK will take place no earlier than March 2019.

After invoking Article 50, May spoke to the House of Commons, detailing her vision of Brexit. Some of the concessions she expects from the EU include favorable trade agreements, rights for UK citizens living in EU countries and the maintaining of security pacts. 

The EU, on its part, is expected to request a hefty fine from Britain for leaving (upward of £50 billion) or, if that fee is unattainable, to force the UK to agree to trade and travel agreements that likely would be unfavorable for Britain.

Also, it’s a good bet that both sides will take up the entire two years in making sure each gets the most favorable Brexit that can be mustered, so the invoking of Article 50 will not cause a rush of changes to occur either in Great Britain or on the Continent.

But stay tuned.

CORRECTIONS to note —

• In our February 2017 issue, on page 61 we stated that the ice hotel Hôtel de Glace (www.hoteldeglace-canada.com) was located in Montréal, Québec, Canada. The actual location of that hotel — whose very existence is seasonal — is just north of Québec City in Valcartier, Québec, Canada. 

Janice Bernabucci, currently of Newport Beach, California, informed us of the error, adding, “Just thought I’d point that out, since I’m a Canuck!”

• Another geographical gaffe — in the Travel Brief “Badenfahrt 2017” (April ’17, pg. 4), Baden was described as being “2½ hours north of Zürich.” This correctly describes the location of the GERMAN town of Baden, but the SWISS Baden — where the festival is occurring — is located just south of Zürich.

We thank Steve Bruels of Seattle, Washington (and, in 1958, of Baden, Switzerland), for bringing that error to our attention. (Steve advertised his company, Interlake China Tours, in ITN for years until closing it and retiring last year. It’s good to know he still reads ITN.)

• In this column last month, I wrote that the residential cruise ship The World “traveled farther south than any vessel has ever traveled before, reaching the geographical line 78º43.997'S.” I then added, “For those of you who don’t read nautical, that’s 78 degrees, 43 minutes and 997 seconds south…” 

You can add me to the list of people who don’t read (or speak) nautical. The notation of that location ends with minutes written in a decimal and should be read as “78 degrees, 43.997 minutes south,” without any seconds mentioned at all.

ITN subscriber Peter Calingaert of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is a better navigator than I.

More notes from the In Box —

• George W. Dozier, Jr., of Denver, Colorado, wrote, “In her letter ‘Guide in Marrakech’ (Feb. ’17, pg. 28), Nancy Gatland was right on the money recommending guide Kharroubi Youssef. Our African American tour group from Denver had him as a guide as we toured Morocco in 2014. Her comments regarding Youssef were the same ones our group made.”

• Carol Peim of Hendersonville, North Carolina, wrote, “Your magazine is the only one I subscribe to. I love reading the personal stories, and I went to the Galápagos in May 2016 with Galapagos Travel, one of your advertisers. Great trip!”

• Another North Carolinian, Dick Sherrick of Greensboro, wrote, “This past October, Carolyn and I were in the South Caucasus on a private trip arranged by MIR Corp. We found MIR through ITN, and Jonathan Gann put the trip together for us. The in-country guides and drivers were excellent. Thought you would like to know.”

It’s always good to hear positive things about our advertisers. And whether it’s a quick jotting or a full Feature Article, we appreciate all of your trip reports. What you write is what we can print. Keep the email and envelopes coming!

David Tykol