THINK OF THE CHILDREN

Does your child really need an iPad to get through a flight? These airlines don’t think so

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Getting There
Obsession
Getting There

The US government’s new ban on personal electronics in airplane cabins—provoked by concerns that terrorists may modify such products to become explosive devices—has understandably alarmed parents. What will their children do for 16 hours without an iPad?

Under the new rule, passengers on nonstop US-bound flights from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports cannot bring personal devices like laptops, tablets, Kindles, and portable DVD players aboard, leaving parents without digital pacifiers for their children. The UK followed suit with a similar ban.

Is it time to panic? Remain calm, the carriers say, hoping that they will stay travelers’ favorite airlines.

Emirates, one of the carriers affected by the US ban, ran a short advertisement on YouTube on Tuesday (March 21) asking simply: “Who needs tablets and laptops anyway?” The clip cuts to footage from an ad Emirates ran last year of spokeswoman Jennifer Aniston sitting in a plane in between two children, marveling at a seat-back entertainment system that has “so many games and so many movies. It’s crazy.”

Qatar Airways boasted about its more than 3,000 channels in its seat-back entertainment system. Royal Jordanian tried its hand at verse to convince passengers that they can make it through the flight sans tablet.

What’s so hard about encouraging your children to, dare I say it, read a book or look out the window? Well, there isn’t much to look at on an overnight flight, and young children, often the most restless, aren’t reading yet. And kids often need a variety of activities on a long flight, my colleagues with children tell me. A six-year-old is probably not going to sit through The Revenant (sweet dreams!).

(I was also reminded that this is a very serious matter because it is a question of keeping the calm for everyone on board—some airlines have experimented with charging extra for kids-free zones.)

But since these airlines haven’t yet figured out how to install play areas on their airplanes, parents will just have to fill their smartphones with downloaded programming and do their best.

The kids will be fine, but Emirates, you’re going to need a bigger bar.

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