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Tech ban forces one in four parents with young kids to rethink travel plans

  • Over a quarter (26%) of parents of young children would be put off flying or would avoid flying this summer if tech was banned from flights

  • Parents of children under 11 spend over two hours on average preparing electronic devices for flights

  • Tablets and e-readers the most popular way to ensure young children are occupied on flights (67%), ahead of snacking (41%) and colouring (37%)

  • Over a third of parents (36%) aren’t aware of the ongoing device restriction on flights from some destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia

  • Uswitch urges holidaymakers to check flight rules for their destination before they travel

The thought of an in-flight gadget ban could be enough to force over a quarter (26%) of parents of young children to abandon flights abroad, according to new research by price comparison and switching service Uswitch.com.

While a restriction on gadgets would cause one in five (21%) parents to only take short-haul flights, 41% think that it would make the experience of flying with young children much more stressful.

The research comes a few weeks  after US Homeland Security chief John Kelly said he was considering expanding the gadget ban on anything larger than a smartphone to all flights entering and leaving the US. Currently the ban only relates to ten airports in the Middle East and Africa but over half of parents (52%) believe the US could enforce the same restrictions on in-bound flights from the UK and the EU.

Some UK holidaymakers are already subject to gadget bans after the UK imposed hand luggage restrictions on flights from certain countries including popular holiday destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in March. The ban enforced by the UK currently includes all laptops, e-readers and phones over a certain size.

Despite this, over a third (36%) of parents are not aware of the gadget ban meaning that a large number of travellers are in danger of turning up to the airport unprepared and will potentially face disappointment this summer.

UK parents are so reliant on keeping their brood distracted with technology for the journey that they will spend around two hours preparing for flights this summer – including downloading movies and TV shows, the latest games and updating Spotify playlists. One in five (20%) will spend over four hours getting technology ready for their upcoming flights.

With three quarters of parents (73%) planning on spending up to five hours in the air this summer, the demand for creative ways to occupy their children is all the greater. While four in ten parents will occupy their younger children with snacks (41%) and colouring, drawing or crafts (37%), over two thirds (67%) plan to rely on tablets and e-readers to play movies, TV programmes, games and read books. The most popular use of electronic devices on planes are playing games on tablets (36%), watching films (29%) and TV shows on tablets (25%). Only 32% plan on leaving it to chance with the in-flight entertainment.

Conversely, less than one in five (17%) will play more traditional games with their children, such as card games or I Spy, while only 11% plan on entertaining their brood with crosswords.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, comments: “The school holidays are a double-edged sword for most worried parents – the promise of a relaxing two weeks in the sun is often overshadowed by the concern of getting the kids there without any catastrophic plane tantrums.

“In recent years, technology has proved a great help in this area. Parents no longer have to leave it to chance with the in-flight entertainment, and instead have got used to filling their digital devices with tried-and-tested boxset favourites and games. The prospect of a gadget ban will prove daunting for those who rely on tech to keep their children content.

“As it stands, the ban on certain electronic devices only affects inbound direct flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. However, the prospect of the ban being extended to flights between the US and Europe will amplify concerns, with airlines warning it could cost the travel industry over £1bn.

“The key, as always, is preparation. Only devices larger than 16cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm (6.2in x 3.6in x 0.5in) are banned from the cabin, which means that latest smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 or HTC U11 can still be used in-flight – as long as handsets are set to flight mode. Wi-Fi availability is also hit-and-miss with most airlines on short-haul flights, and can be costly, so it’s best to download programmes or music to entertain yourself before you set off for the airport.

“It’s also worth noting that any banned devices bought in duty free while at the airport won’t be allowed in the cabin, requiring you to stow these in the hold.”

Top Five Travel Tips

  1. First off, preparation is key. The device ban is in ongoing discussions, and while it only affects certain inbound flights to the UK at the moment, this could extend to the US. Don’t get caught out! Check your airline’s rules before you head off to the airport.

  2. With UK parents spending up to £10 on average on in-flight Wi-Fi in the last two years, it’s worth thinking about downloading your kids’ favourite shows before you set off. This also means you aren’t left without options if the plane’s Wi-Fi isn’t up to muster leaving you with a bored child on your hands.

  3. On the flight routes that are affected by the laptop ban, only devices over a certain size are banned from the cabin. This means that most smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 or HTC U11 can still be used in-flight for the likes of Netflix and Spotify – as long as handsets are set to flight mode.

  4. If you are tempted by a bit of retail therapy in duty free, remember that the device ban is still applicable – so if you’ve picked up an iPad in Departures, it will have to be stowed in the hold before you can get on the plane regardless of the model, as even the iPad Mini is large enough to be affected by the gadget ban.

  5. It’s worth remembering that roaming charges outside of Europe can quickly rack up if your mobile data is switched on. Look into adding a roaming add-on if you want internet access whilst you’re abroad.


Claire Jones

Phone: 020 7148 4663

Email: Claire.Jones@uswitch.com

Twitter: @uSwitchPR

Notes to editors

Uswitch.com surveyed a nationally representative sample of UK parents, 1005 of which are planning on flying abroad with their children this summer. Data was collected from 12 to 19 May 2017. Our results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria - all questions unless mentioned went to mobile users or those responsible or jointly responsible for choosing and paying for their mobile contract / provider.  

  1. Respondents were asked: “If passengers were banned from using electronic devices on flights, which of the following reactions do you think you would have? Select all that apply.” 26% answered “I would avoid flying with my children at all costs” or “I would be put off flying with my children”

  2. Respondents were asked: “Approximately, how much time will you spend getting electronic devices prepared in advance of flights?” The mean response was 2.16 hours. 20% answered “4-5 hours”, “6-7 hours”, “8-9 hours” or “10 hours +”

  3. Respondents were asked: “How do you plan on entertaining your children during flights this summer? Select all that apply” 67% answered “tablets” or “Reading - kindle”

  4. Table 1: How parents plan on entertaining children aged 0-11 on flights this summer


How do you plan on entertaining your children during flights this summer? Select all that apply.Total
Games on tablets36%
Reading – books35%
In-flight entertainment32%
Films on tablets29%
TV shows on tablets25%
Games on mobile phones19%
Traditional games (board games, card games, I Spy etc)17%
Portable games consoles16%
TV shows on mobile phones13%
Reading – Kindle10%


  1. Respondents were asked: “Some devices, such as laptops and tablet computers, have been banned as carry-on luggage on some flights from the Middle East, North Africa and Egypt. Before today, were you aware of this?” 36% answered “No, I wasn’t aware”

  2. Respondents were asked: “If passengers were banned from using electronic devices on flights, which of the following reactions do you think you would have? Select all that apply.” 41% said “Flying would become much more stressful” and 21% said “I would only fly short-haul flights”

  3. Respondents were asked: “Do you expect the same to happen on flights to the USA from the UK and EU?” 52% answered “Yes, I do expect this”

  4. Source: gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/hand-luggage-restrictions/electronic-devices-and-electrical-items

  5. Respondents were asked: “How many hours do you expect to be flying with your children this summer, including any connecting flights? (if more than one trip is planned, please estimate the total amount of hours for all journeys)” 73% answered “0-1 hours”, “2-3 hours” or “4-5 hours"

  6. Source: http://news.sky.com/story/laptop-ban-extension-could-impact-air-travel-airlines-warn-10904851

  7. Respondents were asked: “How much have you spent, on average, on in-flight Wi-Fi in the past two years when flying with your family?” The mean average was “£9.28”

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