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Electronics to be banned on some US-bound flights

The American government plans to ban passengers on certain airlines from carrying laptops and other larger electronic items on US-bound flights.

tech Updated: Mar 21, 2017 21:22 IST
HT Correspondent
Royal Jordanian Airlines is advising passengers that laptops, iPads, cameras and other electronics won’t be allowed in carry-on luggage for U.S.-bound flights starting Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
Royal Jordanian Airlines is advising passengers that laptops, iPads, cameras and other electronics won’t be allowed in carry-on luggage for U.S.-bound flights starting Tuesday, March 21, 2017.(AP File Photo)

Travellers on US-bound foreign airline flights from airports in eight Muslim-majority nations will be not allowed to carry electronic devices larger than a cellphone, according to new rules announced by the Trump administration on Monday.

The airports on the restricted list are Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

A lot of Indians use the airports of Istanbul, Dubai and Abu Dhabi for boarding last-leg connecting flights to the United States when they fly Turkish Airlines, Emirates and Etihad, and would have begun encountering the new rules already.

The new rule, which applies only to foreign airlines and not to those operated by Americans, went into effect on Tuesday and bar computers, laptops, tablets, cameras and travel printers, which, however, can be carried with checked-in baggage.

The security measure, which will be in force till October when it could be extended for a year, were not linked to any specific intelligence about attacks or plots. Officials said, citing ongoing evaluation, that terrorists continue to target commercial aviation by “smuggling explosives in portable electronic devices.”

“Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration acting administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last-point-of-departure airports to the United States,” an official said.

In 2014, the US had called for enhanced security at airports around the world for non-stop flights into the US citing intelligence about terrorists trying to smuggle explosive devices. Special screening procedures remain in place at many airports.

Security at US airports has also been stepped up recently. Two weeks ago Transportation Security Administration introduced enhanced pat-downs that are more invasive than before, citing continued concerns.

Passengers who refused body screening will be put through enhanced pat-downs, or those who trigger the alarm. TSA agents can also pick out passengers randomly for enhanced search.

The new rule has nothing to do with the president’s controversial executive order under which no new visas and Green Cards will be issued to citizens of six Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

Details of the ban were first disclosed by Royal Jordanian and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia.

A DHS spokeswoman said the government “did not target specific nations. We relied upon evaluated intelligence to determine which airports were affected.”

On March 6, Trump signed a revised executive order barring citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from traveling to the United States for 90 days. Two federal judges have halted parts of the ban, saying it discriminates against Muslims. Trump has vowed to appeal up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

The airports affected by the electronics rules are served by nine airlines that fly directly from those cities to the United States about 50 times a day, senior government officials said.

The carriers - Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways , Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways - have until Friday to comply with the new policy.

However, an Emirates spokeswoman who confirmed the Dubai-based airline was affected by the restrictions said the new security directive would last until October 14.

The rules do apply to US citizens travelling on those flights, but not to crew members on those foreign carriers. Homeland security will allow passengers to use larger approved medical devices. (with inputs from agencies)