David Shepardson & Mark Hosenball with News Desk Input
Passengers travelling on certain U.S.-bound foreign airline flights will have to check electronic devices larger than a cell phone once U.S. authorities formalise a new ban in response to an unspecified terrorism threat, U.S. officials confirmed on Monday.
The information first came out from the Royal Jordanian airlines in a now-deleted tweet, which flies between its hub in Amman and New York, Detroit and Chicago: “Following instructions from the concerned US departments, we kindly inform our dearest passengers departing to and arriving from the United States that carrying any electronic or electrical device on board the flight cabins is strictly prohibited.”
The new rule is expected to be announced Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security, the officials said, adding that it had been under consideration since the U.S. government learnt of a threat several weeks ago.
The rule is expected to cover around 12 foreign airlines. A separate government official confirmed an Associated Press report that the ban will affect 10 airports in eight countries, at least, in the Middle East and North Africa.
Reuters reported earlier the ban would include airlines based in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The ban will be applied to 10 airports of the following countries: Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
List is thought to include: Arik Air from Lagos; Egyptair from Cairo; Emirates from Dubai and Athens; Ethiopian from Addis Ababa, Lome in Togo and Dublin; Etihad from Abu Dhabi; Kuwait Airways from Kuwait; Qatar Airways from Doha; Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca; Royal Jordanian from Amman; Saudia from Jeddah and Riyadh; South African Airways from Johannesburg and Dakar; and Turkish Airlines from Istanbul.
No American carriers were affected by the ban, the officials said. Passengers would be allowed to carry in their checked luggage larger devices like tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras. Although concerns over keeping lithium batteries in checked in baggage also exist.
CNN, citing an unnamed U.S. official, said the ban on electronics on certain airlines is related to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and that some information came from a recent U.S. special forces raid in Yemen. Reuters has also reported the group has planned several foiled bombing attempts on Western-bound airlines.
UAE has the largest airline passenger hub in world
UAE is the largest airline hub in the world and this ban if it takes place will create huge commercial implications for the airlines and passengers. Over 75m people last year went through Dubai airport alone; surpassing Heathrow as the leader, who saw only 67m people. Security checking of passengers in the UAE is much more rigorous than what is seen in most western countries. With passengers going through a second round of checking when they get off their airplanes and land in the UAE. Then if they are going to the USA, passengers go through a third round of security checking at the flight gate.
In addition, Abu Dhabi has one of the few US immigration centers outside the USA, which allows you to pass through their immigration control and land directly in the USA as a domestic passenger. This ban will affect millions of passengers who may have to rethink their plans; impacting UAE economy, that is already seeing slowing of economic growth.
Royal Jordanian Airlines <RJAL.AM> said in a tweet on Monday that U.S. bound passengers would be barred from carrying most electronic devices aboard aircraft starting Tuesday at the request of U.S. officials, including those that transit through Canada. Passengers can still carry cell phones and approved medical devices.
Further updates will be announced soon regarding #electronicsban.
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) March 20, 2017
Al Riyadh newspaper, which is close to the Saudi government, reported that the civil aviation authority had informed “airlines flying from the kingdom’s (Saudi) airports to U.S. airports of the latest measures from U.S. security agencies in which passengers must store laptops and tablets” in checked in baggage.
Al Riyadh quoted a civil aviation authority source as saying that these measures from senior U.S. authorities were relayed to the Saudi interior ministry.
Saudia Airlines confirmed in a tweet that U.S. transportation authorities had barred carrying larger electronic devices in cabin luggage.
The White House declined to comment
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, David Lapan, said the agency has “no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide an update when appropriate.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called congressional lawmakers this weekend to notify them of the plan, congressional aides said.
In July 2014, the Homeland Security Department stepped up security of U.S.-bound flights, requiring tougher screening of mobile phones and other electronic devices and requiring them to be powered up before passengers could board flights to the United States.