Books Banned on Canada-U.S. Flights

Are books dangerous? A new Transport Canada ban on almost all airline carry-on items would seem to indicate just that.

The new measures were put in place as part of a massive security crackdown following the Christmas Day terrorist attempt. According to The Edmonton Journal, “U.S.-bound air travellers were forced to stow all but the bare essentials in their checked luggage Monday as Transport Canada issued a new ban on almost all carryon luggage.”

The prohibition is intended to get planes running on schedule after time-consuming new security measures introduced on Saturday caused lineups, delays and cancellations across North America, spokesman Patrick Charette said.

And while keeping to schedule is laudable and passenger safety is everyone’s first concern, there is a place where common sense can go out the window. Here is that place:

Transport Canada issued a list of 13 items that are exempt from the new policy. Passengers can still carry-on small purses, coats, laptops, cameras, musical instruments and baby-care supplies. Medication, crutches, canes, walkers, medical devices, special needs items and containers carrying life sustaining items are also exempt.

“Technically, if it is not on the list, it is not allowed,” Charette said.

Surely books are less potentially dangerous than laptop computers and cameras? And, sure: you could theoretically clobber someone with a book, but that’s certainly true of canes, crutches and walkers, as well.

Edmonton International Airport spokeswoman Donna Call said the new rules mean all backpacks and rolling suitcases must be checked. Books, magazines and even children’s toys must also be checked, she said. Finally, even exempt items will be limited, which means that a single passenger cannot carry-on a purse, a coat, a laptop and a diaper bag.

So while you’re checking that potentially dangerous book or magazine, the Journal points out that “small electronic devices such as iPods and portable DVD players will be allowed on board … and passengers are free to purchase books, magazines, snacks and water once they are through security.”

Canadian author Mary Soderstrom has started a (thus far mostly ignored) Facebook group called “Stop Dumbing Down: Allow Books on Airplanes.” Writes Sorderstrom:

The news about what will be allowed on flights to the US from Canada (and perhaps from other countries) is appalling — no books, it seems! There should be a vigorous protest from book lovers, publishers, writers and everyone concerned about the life of the mind — or who just likes a good story.

Sorderstrom is right. What sort of message is being sent? And how did this even happen? Yes, safety is important. But cameras? Laptops? iPods? And not books? This is the oddest book banning I’ve ever heard of, one that, as Soderstrom says, should be protested and noted by all of those who love books. If nothing else, as one entry on the Facebook group notes, what are book lovers going to do on flights if they take away our books?

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  1. Part of me wonders if this is a collusion between airport newsstands and security. You can't bring a book on a plane, unless you buy some of the limited selection available at the newsstand.

  2. I flew from Winnipeg to Chicago last Monday and while they weren't allowing carry-ons they did allow me to bring a book with my purse. Good thing not only for the flight but to pass the time away in the security line…

  3. It says books are allowed to be purchased once you're through security. So does that mean I can bring a book on a plane, I just have to buy it at the airport?

  4. I love to read on planes too…and why is it you can take a laptop, in a case, I am assuming, but then you can only carry a "small purse"…please define "small" purse!

  5. We'll just have to "smuggle" books on board in our purses. Seriously, this is one of the more ridiculous outcomes of our fear of terrorism — right up there with the US trying to access information on what people were borrowing from their library.

  6. It seems to me it must have been an oversight. I can't imagine anyone actually meant to ban books. Even so, it's a very sad comment on where the culture is now. iPods? Really? Laptops? But not books? I mean, they're pointy and everything. But are you kiddin' me?

  7. Look for the prices of books and mags at airport stores to rise to match the extortionist rates they charge for bottled water (which ought to be illegal, since they are clearly taking advantage of the terrorist threat).

  8. I absolutely agree with the very first comment – I could turn vicious if deprived of my book(s) on a flight. Particularly if that flight is a long, intercontinental one. Luckily I have a Kindle, but for those folks who don't….yikes!

  9. How much longer before we're prohibited from carrying our own blood with us on flights?

    The solution for now is to not fly to Canada…but how long until this thinking spreads?!

  10. Not only at least one book for ME, but what about my KID? Especially for those children too young for "electronic devices", toys and books are absolutely essential. You think crying children on planes are bad now? Wait till they are REALLy bored.

  11. Seems pretty stupid – but I see a plus side for eBook authors like me… with people downloading eBooks to their iPods and iPhones, and/or buying e-Readers to take on vacation.

  12. Now I'm in the market for something that looks like a standard computer case (or a small purse) with handle, that once past the paranoid airport security system unfolds or unstraps in such a way as to function like a backpack. Otherwise, one arm will have to be dedicated to carrying around machine, power cords, chargers, etc.

    What's the prejudice against backpacks anyway? Don't they get xray-ed in the same way that purses and coats do?

  13. Yep, I'm pretty sure this has something to do with the fact that you can buy books at the airport, but not (usually) iPods, iPhones, or cameras. What do you want to bet the newsstands at the airport are in on this…

  14. As Ms. Rogers already noted, Transport Canada says it was all a mistake (and thanks to her for drawing attention to the Facebook protest group Stop Dumbing Down: Allow Books on Airplanes because without media attention the stupidity would have continued longer.)

    But it's pretty sad when some rulemakers don't have the reflex to think of books, magazines and newspapers as important items for travellers–and others.


  15. You're joking! I might have to throw one of the 13 things on the list if I can't get lost in the pages of a book on a flight. I would totally freak! Don't make me buy your overpriced limited choice airport books & don't even mention ebooks. Gawd, I hate ebooks!

  16. Is there no end to this ludicrous charade?

    Where is the leader who will finally say: the emperor has no clothes, and the airport can never institute a procedure which can keep every single bad act from happening.

    This is a ruling that will not hurt the vacuous people who spend hours in the air playing video games or arguing with their seatmates, but will render miserable people who want to read.

  17. So typical of public employees. Ban it now, ask questions later. It makes me a little sick just thinking about it. I loved your best of the year features though. Especially the best of next year. What a hoot!

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