U.S. Now Prohibits Any Type Of Larger Electronic Devices In Cabin, Including iPads And Laptops On Flights From Certain Middle East Countries

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U.S. authorities are in preparation of implementing a complete ban of electronic devices larger than average cell phones inside aircraft cabins of the flight originates in roughly a dozen countries.

One of the airlines (countries) affected already spilled the beans via Twitter: Royal Jordanian Airlines published a notice to their passengers to prepare themselves that computers etc have to be checked in.

So far there is no public, official announcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the authorities apparently tried to keep this under wraps until the very last minute.

Royal Jordanian however in a rather exceptional move of customer service (or rather internal chaos) decided to publish the news to the world through their companies Twitter:

The tweet has since been deleted, likely after a not so friendly phone call from U.S. authorities to the airline.

Based on first news reports this electronics ban includes roughly a dozen countries and airlines that fly directly from these countries to the U.S. where passengers are forbidden from taking larger (anything exceeding the dimensions of a cell phone) electronic devices on board effective immediately.

You can access a current news article on CNN (see here).

An aviation official told CNN that there is a security concern regarding passengers boarding nonstop flights to the U.S. from specific countries. This relates to the “screening in [some] countries” for nonstop flights to the U.S.

The official said this will impact some airlines flying into the United States. Another U.S. administration official says this covers devices larger than a cellphone.

They added that they believe a threat to the U.S. would be negated if a passenger transferred through a secondary city with additional and more trustworthy screening procedures. The directive is to ensure enhanced security measures at select airports for a limited duration.

In a written statement, the Department of Homeland Security said, “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.”

A State Department official says embassy officials have been notifying relevant countries and airlines.

Another U.S. official says the ban on some electronics is believed to be related to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP. The intelligence community has been tracking this threat for some time. …

The implementation of this policy in the very last second and again without any type of announcement will likely result in chaos at the airports where people depart for multiple reasons. One of these reasons is that people don’t like to place in their laptop into checked baggage which is likely subjected to rough treatment and often theft.

On top of that passengers like to keep their computer close, especially if it contains sensitive material such as work files. The restriction would also apply to iPads and pretty much anything that exceeds measurements of a cellphone.

That brings up a whole different issues, namely that airlines until now expressively forbid and put up notice that lithium ion batteries should not be stored in cargo hold due to concerns of these batteries catching fire. Are passengers required to also completely discharge their devices/batteries?

Edit: USA Today (access here) just published more details about this new measure.

… No imminent threat was reported. But the targeted airlines will have 96 hours to ensure that passengers stow all of their tablets, e-readers, DVD players, cameras, game units, travel printers and scanners — any electronics larger than a cellphone — in checked luggage rather than in carry-on.

The officials wouldn’t disclose why it was safer to have the electronics in cargo than in the cabin.

If an airline ignores the restrictions, security officials will ask the Federal Aviation Administration to revoke the airline’s certificate to fly to the U.S.

Homeland Security and State Department officials began notifying officials in the affected countries about the looming restrictions on Sunday.

The nine airlines affected are: Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Moroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

“For those guests bound for the U.S., this must be done at the point of origin which may not necessarily be at Abu Dhabi International Airport,” Etihad said in a statement Tuesday, with rules going into effect March 25. “Safety and security remain the highest priority for Etihad Airways and we will continue to assist passengers in complying with this directive.”

That makes absolutely ZERO sense. So if someone flies from let’s say Singapore to Abu Dhabi to New York the passenger already has to check in his laptop in Singapore and roll his thumbs for the next 26 hours? Let alone the fact that Abu Dhabi has a U.S. Pre-Clearance facility which includes U.S. Customs and Immigration. How exactly is there any type of security risk? These passengers are vetted, screened and pretty much arrive as a domestic passengers once touched down in the U.S.

If this is an attempt to forcefully steer Business towards U.S. carriers it won’t work. People won’t choose some dumpy North American carrier for such long routes to begin with and rather pick and Asian or European connection in lieu.

One has to wonder what these airlines will do with their large Boeing orders. I foresee some cancellation notes heading to Everett very soon.

Conclusion

We’ll update this post or publish a fresh piece when the exact countries and airlines affected are known to the public. Until then you can pretty much expect that should you depart from Middle Eastern and a few African countries you’ll have to part with your electronics for the time of your overseas flights.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in the course of this policy, property will be stolen or in more formal terms “disappears” left and right. Passengers should know their rights as far as compensation for baggage pilferage is concerned (Montreal Convention) and probably look after a decent travel insurance as well.

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