Al Jazeera, March 23, 2017
Arab airlines are using witty marketing and satire to respond to the recent US and UK ban on carry-on electronic goods on inbound flights from Arab countries.
The decision, introduced on Tuesday, bars passengers on flights originating in eight Arab countries from carrying any electronic device larger than a mobile phone.
Senior US officials told reporters that nine airlines from countries in the Arab world had been given 96 hours to institute the ban. The UK announced a similar ban shortly after.
Laptops, e-readers, cameras, tablets, printers, electronic games and portable DVD players are affected by the ban – which applies to direct flights to the United States – but they may still be stowed in the hold in checked baggage.
The indefinite US ban targets 10 airports and nine airlines, including Turkish Airlines and the major Gulf carriers: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, as well as the Jordanian state airline, Royal Jordanian.
But some of the companies have been quick to respond, with lighthearted humour, using the ban as a marketing opportunity.
The United Arab Emirates flagship carrier, Emirates Airline, posted a video on social media with the slogan “let us entertain you”.
Social media users responded to the ad, saying: “The ban is unnecessary and annoying, but fair play to you, Emirates, for this ad. Well done!”
Another user said: “Extremely well played, @emirates But business people need to work, will you provide tablets with office apps for the flight? Now you should.”
Similarly, the Royal Jordanian released a nursery rhyme that poked fun at the series of bans targeting the Arab world introduced by US President Donald Trump.
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) March 22, 2017
The airline followed the poem with a humorous list offering beleaguered passengers things to do on a plane without their electronics, such as “analyze the meaning of life”.
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) March 23, 2017
Qatar Airways chimed in with the following tweet:
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) March 22, 2017
This was not the first time that Arab airlines have launched unconventional marketing campaigns off the back of Trump’s statements or agenda.
The Royal Jordanian has been particularly prolific.
During Trump’s election campaign, the airlines posted the following tweet, as Trump made threats to ban Muslims from the US.
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) November 8, 2016
And, when Trump’s Muslim ban came into effect and was subsequently suspended, the airlines once again responded with another ad, slashing fares, and poking fun at the Muslim ban by replacing the letter “a” in “ban” to “bon voyage”, meaning ‘pleasant journey’ in French.
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) February 5, 2017
The strategy seems to be resonating with people online. Twitter user Kareem Chehayeb said: “Whoever is running @RoyalJordanian airlines’ social media: you’re hilarious. #MuslimBan #Trump”
Though US and UK officials have said the electronics ban is being implemented for security reasons, there is speculation that the real motive is to limit competition between US and Gulf carriers, which have expanded services to the US and eaten into the market share.