It's interesting that the UK left off three of the busiest airports in the Middle East — Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Why are they making a different calculation than U.S. authorities?
The UK on Tuesday said it is banning passengers on flights from six countries —Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Tunisia — from bringing laptops, tablets, large e-readers and other bigger electronic devices in passenger cabins, arguing they may pose security threats.
The ban, announced several hours after the United States issued its own limits on electronic devices for some flights, is similar, though not identical to U.S. policy. Unlike the U.S. restriction, the UK’s does not cover flights from the three most robust hubs in the Middle East — Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Doha in Qatar — so Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways will not be affected. The three airports have strong UK links, and the London Heathrow-Dubai route is flown by four airlines, with more than a dozen daily flights.
However, reports indicate UK-based airlines must follow the same rules as foreign-flagged carriers while departing from the six listed countries, so travelers flying British Airways, EasyJet, Thomas Cook Airlines and Monarch Airlines, among others, will have to store large electronic devices in the cargo hold. Authorities have indicated no U.S. airlines will be affected by the U.S. regulation, though that’s likely because American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines do not fly to the airports covered by the policy.
The U.S. prohibition covers flights from Cairo, Istanbul, Dubai, Kuwait City, Abu Dhabi, and Doha, along with Amman, Jordan; Casablanca, Morocco; and Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The biggest airlines affected by the U.S. ban will be Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, along with Turkish Airlines.
Neither nation’s ban covers flights originating in the UK or the United States. The U.S. ban will be in place by the weekend, though some airlines are following it immediately. The UK’s ban should be effective by March 25.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Parliament, Chris Grayling, the secretary of state for transport, said the UK government had been in “close contact” with U.S. authorities.
“We face a constantly evolving threat from terrorism and must respond accordingly to ensure the protection of the public against those who would do us harm,”Grayling said. “The update we are making to our security measures is an important part of that process.”
Thomas Cook Airlines said it was advising passengers planning to fly from Turkey and Egypt to “make the necessary arrangements to pack laptops, tablets and e-readers securely into hold luggage to be checked-in before going through security.” The airline also noted that passengers who buy electronics at airport duty free shops will not be able to bring them on board aircraft.
Monarch Airlines said it expects its first affected flight to be on April 29 when it begins seasonal service to Antalya, Turkey. It said it will increase the free checked luggage allowance by 3 kilograms to make it easier for passengers to pack devices into their luggage.
Meanwhile, British Airways said it flights continue to operate normally.
“Following an announcement by the UK Government we are advising customers departing from affected airports to arrive in good time at check-in and to refer to ba.com for the latest information,” the airline said.
This post will be updated with new information.
Photo credit: Emirates aircraft wait on the ramp in Dubai. The U.S. and UK electronics bans are similar, but the UK has left off the United Arab Emirates, so Emirates will not be affected. Associated Press