New electronic Middle East flight rules announced

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According to a BBC report the DHS chose the airports "based on the current threat picture" but did not provide any more details. Word also has it that more airports might be added to that list.

All airports in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are affected by the new rule when flying to the UK.

But what does that mean for triathlon and the triathlon media industry? We surveyed journalists, photographers, professional triathletes and also amateur athletes to hear their thoughts about this electronics ban.

Professional triathletes

The professional athletes we heard from seemed not too concerned, and most of them travel heavily for obvious reasons.

Brit Jodie Stimpson just recently returned from WTS Abu Dhabi where she finished 2nd. She however won that race in 2016 and she is fond of that technical event.

“I don’t think this would affect me. It is nice to have my laptop on flights, but I will have my phone. So if I needed to do anything urgent I can do it on there,” said Stimpson.

American Scott DeFillipis currently resides in Southern California, but he and Carrie Lester chase money and points around the globe

“I would be ok putting them in checked bags...” said DeFilippis. “For the government to make such a ban they must have some highly classified evidence that some bad hombres are planning to blow up planes with electronics.”

Brit Jodie Cunnama (Swallow) is on the Bahrain squad and races all over the world with South African husband James Cunnama.

“Whilst the laptop ban I'm sure will be rather annoying and possibly introduce more theft of laptops left in hold, I haven't looked at it as something that would ever stop me traveling where I need to go,” said Swallow. As professional triathletes we leave thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the hold, on display, every time we travel - there is no way around it and though it can be stressful, the bikes get there safely. I guess I will be backing up a whole lot more, with a lot of pages of writing and articles in my laptop memory but that is something I should do anyway. To be absolutely honest - when they take all my fluids from me at the gate and only provide water by the minute cup full on flights, that affects athletes far more than taking their laptops away for the day.”

Brit Leanda Cave spends a lot of time in the USA and the Middle East.

“I'm trying to gauge whether this ban is currently in affect or is due to take affect. Either way, there is clearly a reason for the ban based on intelligence and I'm totally fine with trusting this information,” said Cave. “We will have to go back to the good old days before laptops were a thing. Checking them in is risky, and it's probably safer to have an inexpensive backup for travel purpose. It won't change my decision to travel to the UAE and Egypt.”

American Pro Brad Williams is also an avid traveling pro.

“Absolutely not. I am all for regulations that keep passengers safe and deter terrorist from being successful at carrying out attacks. I am usually very productive on long haul flights with my computer and wifi, but am willing to accept that "loss of time" to have reassurance that the flight is safe,” said Williams. “If I was still an Age Grouper and if for some reason I was in a work position that required a lot of work or I had big projects around that race date, it would absolutely impact my decision. As, triathlon would be a hobby at that point and work would be the priority. There are now plenty of other races that time of year that you could go elsewhere to race.”
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Age group triathletes

Age group athletes indeed have different agendas and priorities and thus the comments varied a bit more.

Canadian age grouper Dev Paul travels extensively for is day job and he is well known for his 100 runs in 100 days challenge on slowtwitch.

“It would partially sway my decision making to the point that I may not. I have too much personally sensitive info on my electronics, to allow them to be accessed out of sight from me by "law enforcement" when my PC is checked in,” said Canadian age grouper Dev Paul. “Plus I normally only check my bike case and take everything else carry on, so I would have to check a separate bag for laptop only and cross my fingers that the bag does not get tossed and my laptop destroyed since most us don't have very rugged laptops. This is beyond stupid anyway because a cell phone can have more computing power than a PC if someone chooses to make on that way. Anything I can do with a PC I can do with a high end phone given the computing and storage and networking on the phone.”

Richard Moodley is Irish but resides in Dubai. He raced Ironman South Africa in 2014 and 2015 and has races in Texas and Florida on his radar.

“I travel to Ireland and U.K. a few times a year and into Europe a few times also, all with work and need to bring a laptop. My biggest concern is that the unit will get damaged. Not the cost of it, but the information on it. So I'm already thinking about the cloud and our network drives etc,”said Moodley. “Same principle for racing overseas. UAE airports are very high standard and very new. There is minimal theft from luggage. Recently a worker was jailed for stealing peanuts from luggage! They've cameras everywhere. My issue would be in the landing airports and returning to Dubai. I've also seen how luggage can be dropped off the back of trailers and how they are manhandled. Saying that I've raced in Abu Dhabi 2011-2013 before I moved here and have had a dinged bike box but never damage. I would ALWAYS carry by hand my DSLR and lenses and iPad or laptop. Never ever checked it in and never will.”

Age grouper Tariq Ali lives in Ohio but has family in the Middle East.

“I did go to Dubai last year for IM Dubai 70.3 and visit family in both Dubai and Jordan. Both countries on the electronics ban list,” said Ali. “If I were to do it all over again, I don't think this will impact my decision to travel as long as I can keep my iPhone with me. However, not having the iPad will be hard since I usually like to do most of my reading on the iPad. I guess I will just try to sleep more on the aircraft instead.

Age grouper and avid slowtwitcher David Daggett just returned from 70.3 Puerto Rico.

“For me travel to races are supposed to be voluntary and for pleasure,” said Daggett. “So if it goes past being worth it the decision may be not to go. Travel restrictions for me are on a continuum and it has become an ongoing challenge to determine whether a race or destination is worth the hassle. So, the recent added restrictions regarding electronic devices becomes an additional, and to me possible heavy, factor to consider in balancing factors to determine race destinations. For analogy, I am now more willing to travel to some races if they are served by TriBike Transport since that removes a logistical hassle of travel e.g. Puerto Rico. Less hassle, more pleasurable; more hassle, less pleasurable.“
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Most media folks carry on most of their equipment, or at least the most important elements, and the strongest voices of concern came from that camp.

American Paul Phillips shoots for a variety of magazines including Triathlete Magazine and he is based in Minnesota.

"At least for now, I am not planning any current travel to those countries" said Phillips. "My big unanswered question is what if I flew from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam on Etihad and then from Amsterdam to MSP on Delta/KLM, would this have an impact on the current ruling? It is always easy to spend a night in Amsterdam, get your luggage and re-check the next morning. If I had to fly next month, I would plan a segments of a trip with a stay over such as I mentioned. I would call the airlines to be sure that flying in and out of Abu Dhabi for example, to a connecting city would not require checking my gear. Having to fly is the real question, it is really a matter of choices, is the event so significant that it is worth the risk and cost of packing everything in hard shell cases and including it with my luggage. Video guys do that all of the time.”

Brit John Levison of in the UK was concerned but not completely troubled.

“It’s a sad fact – proven just 24 hours ago here in London – that terrorism is a reality of life right now. Do the electronics measures ‘make sense’? I’ll have to defer to the experts on that one, and I’m not one of those, so I’ll go with their knowledge and the intelligence services that it makes sense,” said Levison.”Is it a ‘pain’? It is not ideal for many, certainly, but seemingly we have no choice. Would I pack a laptop / camera in cabin baggage? If I was traveling on ‘work’ then I guess I would have little choice, though thankfully cameras on iPhone’s and the like are pretty good, so perhaps I might consider leaving the SLR at home. I think I would be investing in some hard travel cases though for extra protection.”

The crew of flies to tons of events and Robbie Little was kind enough to share his thoughts and concerns.

“I typically carry on a rolling camera bag with 3 bodies, 4 lenses, 2 flashes, camera batteries, numerous cables, remotes, and accessories. In addition I have a backpack with 2 laptops (one for my day to day work and another for photo processing at events), iPad, power cables and a few other typical travel items. I check at least one piece of luggage with clothes and a few '"less fragile, but no less valuable" photo items such as a mono pod. Depending on the situation I may also check a 2nd piece with 6-8 video cameras, mounts, cables, batteries and assorted cables. Point being, for 1 person, I am pretty maxed out as it is and I'm not alone in this regard for FinisherPix. We schlep. A lot. Several of our team leaders are doing similar every weekend. Further, I would guess that others in the industry are doing similar,” said Little. “So, if I were to be asked to check the laptops and cameras my first concern would be security. I have no doubt that somewhere in the world there is someone who would rather take a $5,000.00 camera than finish their shift out. And airlines are always quick to point out their limits of liability as anyone checking a bike is aware. So good luck recouping anything. So there would be uncertainty as to whether or not all items would arrive at the destination.”

For American Jay Prasuhn of Lava Magazine this new rule however seems to be a breaking point.

“In an effort to send out news in a timely fashion I have to be productive wherever I can be, whether it's on a plane, in the passenger seat of a car, or on a train. When a captive audience at 35,000 feet for eight or more hours, and always on short turns after the race back home, I try to edit photos, write stories, sidebars, etc. on long flights, so I can press send as soon as I land,” said Prasuhn. “So to be handcuffed from being productive for that long would be a no-go for me. Further more, I carry on all my cameras (DSLRs, GoPros) along with my laptop, hard drives, chargers, etc., and I'm reticent to hand over my personal cameras and electronics to the same baggage throwers that have damaged my bikes in the past. I've lost GoPros to them, with zero recourse apart from the nice love letter saying they'd gone through my bags. So there's no way I'm checking my DSLRs, or my laptop, for them to either be picked over, delayed (which would kill my ability to cover a race. I see enough anguish among triathletes with delayed bikes or lost altogether. All of it is just too valuable for me to let out of my sight. So for me, no way; I simply wouldn't go.”

Australian ace shooter Delly Carr was actually angry and pointed out the US travel ban as something troubling along those lines.

“Yes this ban makes my job so much harder. The USA will now become the big loser in this, as tourism will drop at an alarming rate,” said Carr. “Because I see this ban widening to include all countries. And I have several stamps in my passport from those countries that are on the ban. I have traveled there for photography work in the past. Now my trips to Chattanooga and Kona this year could be questioned and in jeopardy I guess. I can always work and travel abroad to other destinations. I am not worried about it, but the USA is an unlikely destination for the rest of my lifetime. What an absolute shame.”
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