Travel restrictions make long flights longer for international visitors to OTC

ADNOC employee Fahed Alameri stands next to the drill stabilizer he invented at the oil company’s booth at the Offshore Technology Conference. Alameri had to check his laptop on his 17 hour flight to the United States from Abu Dhabi. ( Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle)

Fahed Alameri invented a mechanical stabilizer that his employer, the state-owned oil company of the United Arab Emirates, is showing off at the Offshore Technology Conference this week.

But Alameri, a drilling manager, couldn’t work on his laptop to prepare his OTC presentation during the 17-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to Houston; he could only use his six-inch mobile phone. “My eyes went crazy with tears,” said Alameri, describing how he had to squint to read and write on the small screen.

Alameri was among the international visitors to OTC affected by the new security procedures imposed by President Donald Trump on travelers from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. The rule, put in place in March after tighter restrictions were blocked by courts, is making the long trips even more uncomfortable for business travelers like Alameri, who among other hassles, are prohibited from using laptops in the cabin.

About 20 percent of the attendees at OTC come from outside the United States and Houston typically rolls out the red carpet for them, setting aside special immigration lanes at Bush Intercontinental Airport to speed them through. But this year, while no problems entering the country were reported to OTC organizers, international visitors said they still worried about visa and other hassles that might detain them in the airport or get them sent back home.

 

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