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I am about to take an Air France flight in a couple days, and I received this in an e-mail from AF:

Important: New security measures for travel to the USA and Canada:
From now on, all electronic devices you plan to carry on board or in your hand baggage (phones, tablets, computers, e-readers, video game consoles, cameras, video cameras, etc.) must be charged and in working condition. You must present these items at boarding. At security checkpoints, we are required to refuse boarding to any passenger carrying a device that is not properly charged or not in working condition.

We recommend you keep all chargers for your devices in your hand baggage. Outlets are available in the boarding hall. We also recommend that you arrive early at the airport.

This is the first I've heard of this and, according to the answers on this question from 2 1/2 months ago, it seems like this was not the case, at least not then.

Can anyone provide some source/reference for these "security measures" being referred too? Has anyone experienced this personally? Do they actually make you log into your notebook and phone etc.? I would rather put them in the checked baggage, then.

  • Do you really want to check in a valuable and fragile item rather than have to prove it works to security? – mdewey Aug 15 '17 at 14:40
  • @mdewey I don't want to let a stranger look through my phone or laptop ! Going through my luggage is bad enough... – Emilia Aug 15 '17 at 16:00
  • @Emilia Then putting the device in the hold wouldn't help much as it can also happen at US customs (and in that case they would really be interested in the data, not merely in ensuring the laptop is genuine). It's not common but not unheard of. If you are very sensitive about this, the main solution is to put your data in the cloud and retrieve them once you are back home. Besides, checking in a laptop also carries a moderate but not negligible risk of loss or theft, and in that case you wouldn't know what became of your data either. – Relaxed Aug 15 '17 at 21:09
  • I changed the headline question as it did not seem to match your real concern. Taking a laptop is certainly “allowed”, the email you quote implies as much. – Relaxed Aug 15 '17 at 21:11
  • This is a throwback about 15 years when travelers were asked to power on their devices to demonstrate they could power on. This is for carry-on devices only. Customs and Immigration Inspection is different and all devices are subject to inspection though most travelers do not need to worry about this. – Johns-305 Aug 15 '17 at 21:45
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I had to turn my laptop on during at-gate security check (separate from the main security check) when flying from Europe to USA. Security lost all interest of it as soon as they seen the boot loader prompt, nobody asked to log in. This only happened twice out of over hundreds of those flights, and in those cases every passenger went through this check. No idea what triggered it, and it looks like all US-departing flights were through this check. Looked like occasional thing to me.

Last time I flew from EU (AMS) to USA was in late June 2017, and there were no checks nor restriction.

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I see up to three security checks you'll be going through. If they search your laptop, it will surely be at customs/immigration.

  • Airport anti-hijacking security check on initially boarding your flight
  • Immigration and customs at the US entry (as well as intermediate hops if any)
  • TSA anti-hijacking security check for your onward flight within the USA, if any

The anti-hijacking guys are looking for one thing: a laptop that's been hollowed out to conceal a knife, gun, dynamite, whatever. Their de-facto test is that the laptop powers up normally, acts like a working device, and doesn't have signs of tampering. You do this right in front of them.

The immigration and customs guys are looking at data about you. They may do this in a separate room where they are equipped for high speed forensic analysis of laptops etc. They may also open your checked bags to look at laptops, hard drives, USB fobs, etc. This is for two reasons:

  • "information contraband": Mostly searching for child porn, they have automatic software which quickly scans hard drives looking for known images, keywords, etc. They may also manually search. "Personal porn" is in danger if it is extreme enough to violate US Customs rules (which are more restrictive).
  • Whatever story you are giving in your visa, documents and interviews, if they are not 100% confident, they will search the devices for data to support (or contradict) that.

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