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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  • mark FENTON

    The key here is…..what are the chances a whole load of these items will ahem…go missing from hold luggage….a field day for the dodgy bag handlers me thinks….and of course not all are it will be a small minority but still…….

    Also the way bags are thrown about I think some devices may never work again!

  • Richard

    Corporate policy mandates the laptop remain with the employee and not be checked. Corporate will need to rebook quite a few flights to accommodate the electronics ban.

    • Might end up in some complicated routings (and additional miles) for you guys.

      • David

        Not to mention for US government employees under such an edict who can only now fly to that region on EK (as a codeshare with JetBlue). Definitely an economic reprisal aimed at the M3…very clever move since any US policy these days can be claimed to be done for “national security” reasons.

        • Gaijinsan

          LOL, I had forgotten about the EK/B6 tie up and the government contract. I can’t wait until a few computers with classified materials get stolen and see how fast this load of BS gets reversed. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s already been thought about and now USGov Employees have been ordered to travel westbound via Europe (non-UK) for the time being.

  • Chris

    good reason to avoid going to the US – there are plenty other places to travel to on earth and make business with. Come to Europe ;))

    • More often than not people don’t have the luxury to choose and my good guess is that those originating in these countries (likely the same that are already on terror watch lists) can’t really pick the cherries from the tree so to speak. The real victims here are the regular leisure travelers who hopefully won’t have their belongings stolen.

  • Squirell

    Discharging a battery would not make it safer and if the person forgot to recharge it for a long period of time, it would be more likely to further drain below the no return point where actually charging it would cause a fire. The built in circuitry should prevent charging if that happens but you would need to replace the battery after that.

    • In other words the airlines have to decide what they prefer or catapult us back to the stone age.

  • Nick Hevelian

    Seems more like a way to surreptitiously hit the ME3 than anything. Looks like those lobbying dollars from US airlines finally paid off!

  • Gaijinsan

    “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.”

    This is my suspicion. Unfortunately Royal Air Maroc, EgyptAir and Royal Jordanian are hardly a threat to US or European carriers, they are just too small, it’s going to hurt them unnecessarily.

    If the “threat” was really security standards not being high enough then Ethiopian should have been on the list, their security in ADD is a complete joke. Half the time the staff will walk you right up the ramp to a connecting flight without clearing local security at all or even connect you directly on the ramp to your next plane in a van if your connection is too tight. They do have flights to Mogadishu, Juba, and Khartoum, connecting to countries that the Trump administration has already taken issue with. I like Ethiopian and fly them fairly regularly but strong security isn’t the reason.

    • Cindy

      It looks like, this ban is covering the cities which have non-stop flights to the USA. Does Ethiopian has a direct flight? If not, then it may not be on that list….

      • Gaijinsan

        They have several flights into the US, however westbound flights all have an intermediate stop en-route. (Ireland or Togo these days, used to be Italy). Eastbound IAD-ADD does go non-stop, but due to ADD’s high altitude they can’t take off with enough fuel to make the non-stop westbound though the planes have the range to do it otherwise.

        I truly don’t believe that Togo has superior carry-on x-ray equipment than DXB, AUH, and DOH. This new ban is nothing more than a sharp stab by the Trump administration at the middle east and Muslim north Africa. Ethiopia is a Christian country though quite a number of ET passengers are actually from Islamic regions.

        I’ve departed from a good number of the airports on the list and with some, there’s no way that saying their x-ray isn’t up to standard is the true reason for this.

    • toyotaf1Mohammed Al-Ammari

      I think they added few more countries and airlines so it will look less suspicious.
      I do agree with this article, if I had an other choice I would travel with Lufthansa, British airways, KLP or any other Asian airlines and not a U.S airline.

  • Malcolm

    I really don’t get it – what.difference does it make if the laptop were to explode in cargo or in the cabin at 30k feet? If security at airports is too lax, then ban the airline from flying direct flights. This will get some action. All this new policy will do is drive business to connecting flights in europe and make flying more inconvenient.

  • Chris

    Apparently the UK has now adopted the same approach…?

    I don’t get it – if this only applies to some carriers and not others – don’t you have carrier independent screening by airport staff? So how would one carrier be less secure than another if its passengers go through the same screening?

    • Gaijinsan

      It has nothing to do with carrier, it’s only about departure airport. No US carriers fly to the affected airports anymore.

      As for the UK ban, I can presume that it will affect BA as well unless they are setting up their own security at the gate at each of the airports, similar to what Israel does( or did) at certain airports for departures to TLV.

  • Malcolm

    I would suggest that anyone who thinks that this is a dumb idea, contact their political representative. If certain airports or countries are so slack with their screening, then ban the airlines from the US and the UK. Then the problem will go away fast!

  • Keen Poon

    Just a question, how many explosive devices has been found to be hidden in laptops ever?

    • Ramitran

      One example: “In February 2016, a bomb hidden inside a laptop detonated aboard a
      Daallo Airlines flight out of Mogadishu, Somalia. The bomber was killed
      and a hole was blown in the side of the fuselage. The aircraft landed
      safely.”