The UK is following a US ban on passengers taking electronic devices in cabin luggage on non-stop flights from ten airports in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Passengers travelling from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon to the UK will be asked to check in electronic devices larger than 16cm in length, 9.3cm width and 1.5cm in depth.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said that “direct flights to the UK from these destinations can continue to operate to the UK subject to these new measures being in place.
“Travellers are advised to keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice and to check online with their chosen airline for further information. Decisions to make changes to our aviation security regime are never taken lightly. We will not hesitate to act in order to maintain the safety of the travelling public and we will work closely with our international partners to minimise any disruption these new measures may cause.”
UK carriers affected by the restrictions include British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson. Flights from Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are currently not affected by the UK ban.
The US introduced the ban earlier today, stating that only medical devices and mobile phones will be allowed on board as carry-on items, while laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games will have to be checked in.
In a statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the US government said that it “had reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent aviation security and terrorist groups continue to target aviation interests.”
It went on to say that “evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”
“The enhancement in security will require that all personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage. These items will no longer be allowed to be carried onto aircraft at 10 select airports where flights are departing for the United States. Approved medical devices may be brought into the cabin after additional screening.”
The ban will apply to passengers travelling from or transiting through the following airports:
- Queen Alia International airport (AMM),
- Cairo International airport (CAI),
- Ataturk International airport (IST),
- King Abdul-Aziz International airport (JED),
- King Khalid International airport (RUH),
- Kuwait International airport (KWI),
- Mohammed V airport (CMN),
- Hamad International airport (DOH),
- Dubai International airport (DXB), and
- Abu Dhabi International airport (AUH).
The US restrictions are thought to affect nine airlines in total, including major Gulf connectors Etihad, Qatar Airways and Emirates.
Emirates, based in Dubai, flies to 12 US cities, including New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Commenting on the ban, an Emirates spokesperson told Business Traveller:
“Emirates can confirm that as per the new security directive issued by the Transportation Security Administration, electronic devices larger than a cell phone/smart phone, excluding medical devices, cannot be carried in the cabin of the aircraft. The directive comes into effect on March 25, 2017 and is valid until October 14, 2017.
It is applicable to all US-bound passengers from Dubai International airport, whether originating or transiting through. Emirates requests that all passengers travelling to the US pack all electronic devices larger than a cell phone/smart phone in their checked-in baggage.”
Etihad flies to seven US destinations from its hub in Abu Dhabi. In a statement, the airline said that, “following a directive from US authorities affecting selected airports, Etihad Airways has been advised that guests travelling to the United States from Abu Dhabi International airport are not permitted to carry electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone in the cabin.
“Mobile phones and medical devices are permitted but larger items such as laptops, tablets, cameras and e-readers will need to be placed into checked-in baggage. For those guests bound for the US, this must be done at the point of origin which may not necessarily be at Abu Dhabi International airport. The new rules come into effect for those US-bound flights departing Abu Dhabi on March 25.
Whilst Abu Dhabi International airport is not listed within the more recent ban related to direct flights operating to the United Kingdom, enhanced security screening is likely for guests travelling to London, Manchester and Edinburgh.“
Doha-based carrier Qatar Airways has issued similar comments, adding that in its case, the ban takes effect from March 21. The airline has “made special arrangements to assist passengers in securing their devices in the aircraft’s baggage hold. Prohibited devices, including laptops, tablets, DVD players and electronic games must be carried in checked luggage only.”
In our forum: Laptop and iPad ban
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives has raised further issues:
“Without any explanation, the United States government banned major electronic devices that constitute the basic tools of business travel from the cabins of flights from select airports in the Middle East. Now the United Kingdom has followed suit and Canada is reported to be giving the issue serious consideration,” said ACTE Executive Director Greeley Koch. “But the restrictions make no sense. Assuming there is a new terrorist technology, there is nothing to stop someone from carry one of the these devices to Amsterdam, and then boarding a flight to the US or the UK.”
Koch asked, “Does the Department of Homeland Security know about a threat so great that it can’t be shared with the business travel industry? Or are these latest restrictions about to resonate as the new norm the world over? Speculation rivals uncertainty for bad news in the travel industry. Answers are needed now.”
“How long will it be before this ban is extended to flights from Paris and Brussels into the UK and US? No one is going to willingly check their computers or tablets, which often host the most detailed and proprietary corporate information, in the cargo hold of an airliner.”
Koch pointed out that many business travelers do not check baggage at all. “The first rule in business travel is not to be separated from anything essential to the success of your trip. And the most important component is your laptop or tablet. Travellers who do not check baggage normally, will now have to check their laptops, tablets, and e-readers on the affected flights. Baggage goes missing every day. Can you imagine the consequences of losing a week’s, or a month’s work, plus your confidential corporate data to a luggage theft?” Koch said.
Koch also mentioned that cost has no place in a conversation about security, but extra checked baggage will certainly add something to the price of travel.
“Travellers want the best security,” said Koch. “But without further explanation, these new restrictions will do nothing but breed further skepticism in government’s perception of business travel. They want security that is less reactionary and based more on eliminating potential threats before they evolve. And they want an explanation.”