The prospect of an uncharged cellphone strikes fear in the hearts of many mobile road warriors.
To that trepidation can now be added yet another source of anxiety: the very real possibility that they will be stripped of their cellphones or denied boarding on U.S.-bound flights.
According to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, “DHS continually assesses the global threat environment and reevaluates the measures we take to promote aviation security. As part of this ongoing process, I have directed TSA to implement enhanced security measures in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States. We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible. We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and are consulting the aviation industry.”
The agency later clarified the Secretary’s warning, as follows: “As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”
In situations where an affected traveler has the luxury of adequate time to search out an electrical outlet and charge his phone (assuming his charger isn’t in his checked bags), the stricter policy will be stressful and inconvenient, but shouldn’t subject the traveler to the wrenching dilemma: Abandon the cellphone, or miss the flight.
But the alternative scenario—passengers missing flights because there isn’t sufficient time to charge their dead phones—is equally likely, especially in the policy’s early days, when many travelers remain unaware of the new rule.
So far, the TSA has been intentionally vague about which of the “overseas airports” are the focus of the heightened security measures. So to be safe, all travelers on inbound flights to the U.S. should assume that the new rule applies to them. And if there’s any doubt about the charge on their cellphone batteries, they should make double sure to use their chargers before heading for the airport. Or arrive at the airport with time to spare. Or both.
Keep your cellphone, or fly home. That’s not a choice any traveler wants to face.
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.