Frustration As U.S. And UK Ban Electronic Devices On Flights From Middle East

The UK has followed the lead of the United States and is now starting to ban passengers from carrying electronic devices like their laptops and cameras onto planes to and from specific Middle Eastern countries. The list of countries that will be affected by the U.S. ban includes Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Authorities in the United States have told airline companies privately that they must forbid passengers from carrying electronic devices other than their phones onto planes. The Guardian reports that TSA (the US Transportation Safety Administration) are the specific authorities behind this recent ban on electronic devices on planes from the Middle East and that the specific details of the ban were found inside a confidential email.

Electronic devices that would be banned in flights from the Middle East to the United States include Kindles, iPads, laptops, and any cameras that are larger in size than phones. The airlines which will be the most affected by this ban include Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Egyptair, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Morocco, Emirates, and Etihad.

Heathrow Airport in March 2017.
Heathrow Airport in March 2017. The UK and the US are banning large electronic devices on flights to and from the Middle East. [Image by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images]

While this new rule banning electronic devices is not an “official” regulation, it is nevertheless something that the American government is expecting airlines to comply with in the next 96 hours and it will affect travelers both to and from the Middle East.

An agent from one of the Middle Eastern airlines that is affected by this new ban has explained that from this day forward, passengers will be forced to put their laptops and other electronic devices into their checked baggage.

“Effective March 21st, the carriage of electronic and electrical devices inbound to the USA shall only be inbound in checked baggage except for mobile and medical devices.”

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement explaining the American government’s reasoning behind the new laptop travel ban.

“The US government is concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years, as evidenced by the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt; the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia; and the 2016 armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul. Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”

Now that the United States has banned electronic devices on Middle Eastern flights, the UK has also decided to place their own ban on them as well. The countries which will be affected are Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. This means that if you are flying in or out of one of these countries on a UK flight, you will not be allowed to carry anything electronic inside the cabin of the plane besides your phone.

As well as eight foreign carriers, The Guardian says that six British airlines will be affected by the new electronic devices ban. These include British Airways, Thomas Cook, Thomson, EasyJet, Monarch, and Jet2.

Many are questioning the UK’s decision to enact a ban on electronic devices to and from the Middle East and question whether this is in some way connected with Donald Trump’s recent travel ban. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has stressed that this is not the case but did admit that the UK had been speaking with government officials in the U.S. to learn more about their recent electronic device ban.

“We remain open for business. People should continue to fly and comply with security procedures. We understand the frustration that these measures may cause and we are working with the aviation industry to minimise any impact. Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals.”

A traveler removing laptop from security tray at O'Hare Airport in Chicago.
A traveler removing laptop from security tray at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Laptops on flights to and from the Middle East will now need to be placed in baggage and checked in. [Image by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]

This recent UK ban on laptops is also not reported to be due to elevated levels of threats from terrorists in the Middle East. Rather, it is alleged to be in response to general worries over the evolving technological prowess of terrorists. Prime Minister Theresa May has so far conducted several meetings to determine what the UK’s response should be to air security in the future, and this resulted in Tuesday’s ban on all large electronic devices to and from the Middle East.

Do you think the US and UK ban on electronic devices on flights to and from Middle Eastern countries is a good or bad idea and why?

[Featured Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]