Wow: Qatar Airways Will Offer Loaner Laptops & Free Wifi On US-Bound Flights

The US electronics ban has been in place for several days now, and we’ve started to see how airlines are dealing with the ban. Emirates, Etihad, and Turkish have all shared what they’re doing to try and minimize the impact this ban has on passengers.

On Tuesday we learned that Etihad will be offering complimentary wifi and loaner iPads for business class passengers on US-bound flights, as a way of trying to minimize the disruption they face. Well, Qatar Airways is now taking that to the next level.

Qatar Airways will offer business class passengers loaner laptops on US-bound flights. This new feature will be available starting next week, and the laptops can be collected from the gate just before boarding. Customers can download their work onto a USB before boarding.

Qatar-Airways-Laptop-Loaner

Furthermore, Qatar Airways will offer all passengers on US-bound flights one hour of free wifi, and a special package of only $5 to stay connected for the duration of the flight. This is only available on the A350 aircraft operating select flights to Boston, New York and Philadelphia, since Qatar Airways’ 777s don’t have wifi.

Qatar-Airways-A350-02

The press release finishes with a quote from Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, talking about how great Qatar Airways is. It’s quite possibly the most Al Baker-esque quote I’ve ever read, so I have to share it:

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said; “As an award-winning and global airline we truly appreciate the importance of being able to work on board our aircraft and that is why I have insisted on offering only the best possible solution for our customers. By providing this laptop loan service we can ensure that our passengers on flights to the US can continue to work whilst on-board. This unique ability to offer ‘business as usual’, above and beyond the competition, is yet another example of Qatar Airways justification for being the ‘World’s Best Business Class’.”

Whilst other airlines have relied on their existing on board offering to comfort passengers we have not rested until we could offer a true solution to our passengers. Our constant innovation and ability to react to changes in the industry is something I am very proud of. The launch of Qsuite, our new business class product just this month, and other announcements soon to come, are testament to our ongoing passion for providing the absolute best for our customers.”

Am I the only one who reads the above and pictures him saying it, down to his accent and smirk?

Here’s the infographic Qatar Airways provided about how to pass time on your flight between Qatar and the US:

Qatar-Airways-Electronics-Ban

This is of course a very nice way for Qatar Airways to approach the electronics ban. However, do keep in mind that a vast majority of Qatar Airways’ fleet flying to the US doesn’t feature wifi. So while I don’t want to say a loaner laptop without wifi is useless, it’s certainly of limited use compared to a flight with wifi.

Furthermore, many business travelers aren’t going to be copying confidential data from their secured work computer to a loaner laptop.

Bottom line

It’s really impressive to see how quickly the Gulf carriers are adapting to the electronics ban. I was already impressed by them having a proper way to gate check electronics so quickly, but it’s great to see them take it a step further. Free wifi for all passengers, and even a laptop loaner service for business class passengers, is awesome.

Comments

  1. A for effort, but as with any attempt to fix the problem, this will fail. Most companies would probably terminate an employee if they discovered they had copied stuff from their work laptop to a laptop owned by the arm of a state sponsor of terror.

  2. a loaner laptop doesn’t work for a large swath of the business community, who rely on corporate-issued laptops, frequently secured via VPN, to get work done. It also gives little comfort to businessmen that if one were working on a sensitive/confidential document on this loaner laptop, how secure is the file deletion process once he’s done with the flight, or if the loaner has already been previously compromised via malware and trojans.

    if you’re a smaller business that use basic solutions like Google Docs, it might work though.

  3. I give the Middle East airlines credit for being creative but this wont work for most business travelers. My employer strictly forbids putting any of our data on a USB drive and would definitely not let employees work on sensitive files on a non-company owned device. Maybe it will work for freelancers but I can’t imagine anyone working for a multinational company using tgis service. Byt again, kudos to Qatar for trying.

    Hopefully witj enough pressure the US government will realize how poorly thought out this policy is. If someone wants to do harm, they will just take a connecting flight.

  4. Qatar doesn’t fly any a380s to the US, right? I find it funny that they are advertising their onboard lounge since none of the flights to the US offer it.

  5. That is a great idea for a lousy situation. I carry most of my stuff on flash drives anyway. Although I would certainly make a windows 10 bootable flash and use that instead of the unknown state a loaner laptop is in.

  6. Has Qatar announced their electronics policy if you’re connecting through Doha?

    I will be traveling in J from JNB-DOH-DFW. Can I bring my electronics onboard from JNB to DOH and check them at the gate in Doha?

  7. These airlines are in a tough spot with this ban but frankly none of these measures could ever convince me to fly with them. If I was stuck with an existing reservation I’d bite the bullet and just deal with it but I would be worried that my laptop would either be stolen or damaged. And I haven’t heard anyone report back on the process of retrieving electronics at destination in the USA and the potential delays incurred.

    It’s terrible and let’s hope it doesn’t spread and better yet, that the security problems can be fixed soon.

  8. I have to agree with “henry LAX” and “John S”. My company will simply not allow company work to be done on a non-company computer. I can’t even use my home computer! And, corporate security rules do not allow laptops to be in checked baggage.

    I’ll use the ME3 for leisure travel, but for business travel I have no choice but to book elsewhere.

  9. Yes, you are the only one who pictures him saying it. The rest of us have not heard his accent or seen his smirk. He’s not the celebrity you think he is, but I love your fanboydom nonetheless!

  10. Well USB sticks are even disabled for 99% of the people at the company I work for (I work for a bank). Making a remote ‘Citrix’ connection on the loaner could be a solution though, but I presume the wifi can’t have that, especially since just about everyone on the flight is connected.

  11. The flights never had Wi-Fi in the first place, so the loaner laptop will have the same value as one carrying their own laptop (or maybe just slightly less). Also you forgot to mention that there are no lounges on board planes to the USA, however the picture says that you can spend one hour in the on-board lounge.

  12. @ That Girl Travel…I just flew QR biz class yesterday MLE-DOH-PHL. The ticket counter staff in MLE were very aware of the new US rule and made sure to remind me that all larger devices and laptops had to be checked. They even used a zip tie to lock my checked bag which was still on when I landed this morning. Out of curiosity, I asked at the gate in DOH if they had gate check service and they did not. But I did see them bubble wrap something at the gate xray machine. Perhaps for someone that made it it DOH without checking their device.

    I am loyal to oneworld to keep my status so will probably continue to take QR even with the new ban. My only other oneworld option for work trips to India is BA and I hate their biz class.

  13. Usually we are managing e-mail or replaying to important e-mails while on a flight, so, not sure how that an be done in this case unless you use a cloud based e-mail app such as outlook.com. Additionally, putting your office files on a USB and using it on a loaner laptop exposes you to a lot of risk (data can be copied, virus etc). Also, virus can be written into the memory, so you really never get rid of it. I wish people would understand that when you delete a file, it never really get’s physically deleted unless your scrub the sectors on the hard drive with special utilities. Even then, a scrubbed part of the HD can leave traces of data that can be reverse engineered. Honestly, the only solution is to use a cloud based desktop to do your work …. this way, all the apps AND the data are in the cloud backed up in real time and with full security from hackers, malicious virus and above all key loggers. Do not underestimate the these carriers – I can see them lowering prices in business class to make up for this inconvenience. However, anyone who thinks there electronic items will be safe in baggage is playing with fire.

  14. Thanks, @John S. That’s a bummer to hear. Was hoping they’d do something similar to Emirates.

  15. The types of businesses that have the resources to fly their employees in business class tend to be the types of businesses that have strict data-security policies, i.e., policies that would prohibit putting any business data on some random, unsecured laptop via thumb drive.

  16. So to understand, you could use a laptop or iPad provided by the airline but not your personal one?… what is the difference? I mean doesn’t it pose the same risk. If that’s what they are suggesting. Aren’t the electronics being loaded to the aircraft after clearing security similar to the one we (passengers) go through?

  17. I’m on LXR-DOH-PHL starting 1am Saturday with a 20+hr layover in DOH. I know they require packing large electronics in hold luggage at the point of origin but, will they really not allow me to have my devices during such a long layover that includes a Qatar supplied hotel? I’m assuming my bags will be through checked and I will only have carry on during the layover.

  18. Who is going to provide IT help desk support for these computers in flight? You know there will be issues…

  19. I’ll give Qatar for trying on this. Not sure it’ll work for most people who need to carry a laptop with them for business, but at least Qatar’s trying to make the best of a terrible situation & terrible policy.

    All of this security theater crap needs to stop, and not just aviation. How many places do you have to show ID now that you didn’t have to? It’s not like fake drivers’ licenses have never been made before. Just to go into Universal Orlando’s shopping area, you have to go through a metal detector and have your bags X-rayed…to go shopping… in America. WTF?!?? At least their process is efficient and the employees polite, but I still strongly resent it, to the point that I’m not willing to go there again until they remove it. This stuff DOES NOT make anyone safer and distracts resources from REAL security which might actually make a difference.

  20. @That Girl Travels

    We are flying CPT-DOH-LAX with 8 hour layover in DOH. I received the following assurance from Qatar that they would allow electronics on the first leg then gate checkin at DOH. It sounds like this is not happening from others above. We fly Apr 02. If you fly earlier it would be helpful if you could report any change in procedure. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU PUT ELECTRONICS IN LUGGAGE IN JNB as it it the WORST THEFT AIRPORT in my experience (have experienced theft).

    Qatar Airways sent you a Direct Message.

    Hello, Alan. You can use your devices on the first leg up until before you board on your connecting flight. As previously mentioned, the said devices will be collected at the boarding gate. This will work especially for you because you have plenty of transit time. However, we still recommend that the devices are kept in a bag for check-in at the point of origin to avoid delays due to the new procedure. Hope this clarifies.

  21. This is a cyber security nightmare. I seriously doubt airlines will go the proper route of scrubbing the laptop and reimage on each use which is probably the only way to stay safe with shared laptops. Otherwise you’ll get someone like me who if bored I’ll be going through the browser and looking to see if any sucker allowed the browser to remember id/passwords. Or some crappy site that didn’t purge their cookies adequately. The evil hackers will probably just download the entire internal database and parse out all the good info on their own machines. Short of surfing for porn on the those laptops I don’t think they will be safe for any kind of work no matter how seemingly innocent.

  22. I agree, most companies don’t permit company confidential work on non-company machines. In fact, given how easy it is to glean information off laptops, even with the privacy covers on, most companies I have been with wouldn’t permit company work in public places. Lucky for me I don’t have to worry as I travel mostly for leisure anyway.
    Still, it’s an attempt to mitigate this protectionist move by the US. And yes, I am sure Emirates is not going let Etihad top them, let alone Qatar Airways, these guys have been in a chest-thumping contest, so I would not be surprise if Emirates does something similar to at least what Etihad does.

  23. @Joe I know some IT security peeps at Etihad and one at Emirates (in fact trying to get onboard with either of them as an IT security manager), and I can assure you they do not slack when it comes to IT security (and I doubt they would allow porn surfing just for the big security risks alone not to mention Islamic mores).
    I do agree with the rest of your comment, it’s a risk doing anything confidential or private. If the tablet or laptop has Kindle, I may use that so I can do some reading without lugging a library (and I don’t care who knows what I like to read most of it is boring IT stuff anyway lol) but otherwise I probably won’t bother.
    This assumes that I get discounted first or business class tickets to the US on Emirates anyway, otherwise I’ll just take their nonstop to Rio and use my electronics still.

  24. People like you, whose privilege simulateously affords you influence but enables you to avoid using it to take a meaningful political stance—to call out this ban for the existential middle finger it really is—are part of the reason we’re in this mess in the first place.

    Are you a Trump supporter, Mr. Schlappig? The fact that you always seem to find the bright side of totally unacceptable things and that you never voiced support for Hillary Clinton during the election makes me believe you probably support the Donald. Or at least that your rich boyfriend’s family does, and you want to avoid ruffling their feathers.

  25. I’m sorry to say but I totally agree with Lucky and the vast majority of comments. This will not solve the problem for the business traveller who I would assume represents the bread and butter of business class users.

    No company will allow the copying of secure confidential information and possibly the checking in of issued laptops. The Gulf Carriers need to reciprocate the ban when it comes to airlines flying directly to their airspace. This is the only way. It’s a trade war and non direct barriers to entry.

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