The United States government, citing unnamed threats, is barring passengers on US-bound flights from eight mostly Middle Eastern countries from bringing laptops, tablets and electronic devices on board in carry-on bags.
Passengers flying to the US from 10 airports will be allowed only phones in the passenger cabin, officials said. Larger electronic items must be checked in as baggage.
Officials said the decision was prompted by intelligence about potential threats. The officials would not discuss the timing of the intelligence or if any particular group is thought to be planning an attack.
The electronics ban affects flights from international airports in Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. About 50 flights a day will be affected.
Across the Atlantic, problems and confusion ensued. Egyptian officials in Cairo said they had not received any instructions.
“There would be a huge disadvantage to having everyone put their electronic devices in checked baggage,” said air security expert Jeffrey Price.
He said thefts from baggage would skyrocket, and some laptops have batteries that can catch fire – an event easier to detect in the cabin than in the hold.
YP junior reporter Charlotte Fong, 14, plans to visit the US in the summer. “It will be very annoying if I cannot bring my devices on board,” she says. “I always take photos in the sky. I don’t trust an airline to safely handle something fragile like my camera.”
How this ban might affect you:
Britain and the US on Tuesday banned laptops and tablet computers from the passenger compartment of flights from several Middle East and North African nations.
The restrictions are different in the two countries and only Britain specified the maximum size of device allowed -16 by 9.3 centimetres.
Canadian and French officials are considering whether to impose similar measures, but Germany, Australia and New Zealand said they are not currently mulling a ban.
Here is what we know so far:
The US ban applies to flights from 10 airports in eight countries.
The airports affected are:
- Queen Alia International in Amman, Jordan
- Cairo International in Egypt
- Ataturk in Istanbul, Turkey
- King Abdulaziz International in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
- King Khalid International in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Kuwait International
- Mohammed V International in Casablanca, Morocco
- Hamad International in Doha, Qatar
- Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates
The British ban affects all the airports in six countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.
Britain said it would be banning “phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal-sized mobile or smartphone” from direct inbound flights from the countries named.
It specified that the ban would apply to devices bigger than 16 centimetres in length, 9.3 cm in width and 1.5 cm thick, which is smaller than some e-readers like Kindles.
The United States said its ban applied to all electronic devices larger than an average-sized mobile phone, including game consoles.
Since US airlines do not have direct flights from the airports affected, its ban affects nine non-US airlines: Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.
The British ban affects six British airlines, including charters British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson.
It also impacts eight foreign carriers, including Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Turkish Airlines.
Airlines in the United States have been given 96 hours, beginning at 3:00 am (0700 GMT) on Tuesday, to inform travellers. Officials were not able to say when the order would end.
The British ban applies immediately from Tuesday and also has no end date.
Officials in both Britain and the United States would not give any details on what exactly prompted the bans.
The US Department of Homeland Security, however, said extremists were seeking “innovative methods” to attack jets.
It cited an incident in Somalia in February last year in which the Shabaab insurgent group said it had managed to place a bomb in a plane leaving Mogadishu for Djibouti.
The device exploded shortly after takeoff, ripping a hole in the plane’s side, but killed only the suspected bomber before the aircraft landed safely.
American authorities also cited the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt in 2015, as well as attacks at airports in Brussels and Istanbul.
A government source in London only said Britain was “privy to the same intelligence” as the United States.
British Transport Minister Chris Grayling said: “We face a constantly evolving threat from terrorism and must respond accordingly.”