US, UK ban cabin laptops on flights from Muslim-majority countries

22nd Mar 2017
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The US and UK, citing terrorism concerns, today barred passengers on international flights from mostly Muslim-majority countries from carrying large electronic devices like cameras and laptops as cabin baggage.

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Passengers travelling to the US from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries, including from global hubs like Dubai and Istanbul, cannot carry large electronic devices like cameras and laptops as cabin baggage under a new Trump administration order.

According to the tough security restrictions, passengers will have to check in any devices bigger than a smartphone -- including iPads, Kindles and laptops -- before clearing security or boarding, US officials said. The open-ended ban by the US will affect more than 50 flights from 10 airports in Cairo in Egypt; Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE; Istanbul, Turkey; Doha, Qatar; Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; and Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The nine airlines are Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines. The nine airlines affected by the ban were notified of the procedures by the Transportation Security Administration today and must comply within 96 hours.

The British security rules will cover around 14 airlines that operate direct flights from six Muslim-majority countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia. Under the new arrangements, passengers boarding flights to the UK from the countries affected will not be allowed to take any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal sized mobile or smartphone (Length: 16.0cm, Width: 9.3cm, Depth: 1.5cm) into the cabin of the plane.

The additional security measures may cause some disruption for passengers and flights, and we understand the frustration that will cause, but our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals, a UK government spokesperson said

Senior US administration officials said the rules were prompted by "evaluated intelligence" that terrorists continue to target commercial aviation by "smuggling explosives in portable electronic devices." The officials said US carriers are not affected because none of them fly from the airports in question to the US. The ban involves some of the widest reaching aviation security measures taken since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Royal Jordanian Airlines told passengers yesterday that medical devices were still allowed. If the airlines don't comply with the order within the 96 hour time frame, "we will work with the FAA to pull their certificate and they will not be allowed to fly to the United States," CNN quoted one senior US official as saying.

He said the move is partly based on intelligence that they believe indicates Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is close to being able to hide explosives with little or no metal content in electronic devices in order to target commercial aircraft.

British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a number of meetings on aviation security over the last few weeks, including this morning, where the new aviation security measures were agreed. The government said it has also been in close touch with the Americans to "fully understand" their position. The British airlines affected include British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson.

The foreign airlines hit by the new ban include Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Saudia. They have been informed about the changes and will begin implementing the ban immediately. The attempted downing of an airliner in Somalia last year was linked to a laptop device, and some media reports have claimed that the new security precautions are an attempt to stop similar incidents.

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