US lifts laptop ban for Emirates flights

Updated: The controversial ban was lifted for Etihad flights on Sunday
The US laptop ban has been lifted for all Emirates airline flights, with immediate effect, the Dubai-based airline announced on Wednesday morning.
By Courtney Trenwith
Wed 05 Jul 2017 10:22 AM

The US laptop ban has been lifted for all Emirates airline flights, with immediate effect, the Dubai-based airline announced on Wednesday morning.

“Emirates
has been working hard in coordination with various aviation stakeholders and
the local authorities to implement heightened security measures and protocols
that meet the requirements of the US Department of Homeland Security’s new
security guidelines for all US bound flights,” a spokesperson said.

“We
would like to express our gratitude to the US and local authorities for their
support and thank our customers for their understanding and patience during the
last few months when the ban was in place.”

The
decision nullifies the edge given to neighbouring Etihad Airways, which
received an exemption from the ban on Sunday, over its regional
competitors. 

Abu
Dhabi International Airport was the first airport from where the US agreed to
re-allow electronic devices including tablets, laptops and cameras into the
passenger cabins of planes flying to the US.

It was
unusual for the ban to be implemented at Abu Dhabi International given it is
home to the Middle East’s only US customs pre-clearance facility, which is
likely why it was the first to then be exempt. It’s close proximity to Dubai -
about 130 kilometres by road – and Qatar - less than one hour flying – had been
expected to give it an edge over its regional competitors.

The
restrictions applied to 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa from
late March. They now affect eight airports with US routes, including Doha’s
Hamad International Airport, the base of Qatar Airways.

The
controversial ban, which was implemented with little notice, is estimated to
have cost Emirates and Etihad millions of dollars each as they quickly sought
to introduce measures that limited the impact on passengers travelling on
dozens of UAE-US flights.

Those
measures included allowing passengers to use their devices up to the gate and
then packaging them to be stowed away in the underbelly, as well as loaning
laptops to business and first class passengers.

Emirates
cut flights on five US routes from May, blaming travel restrictions imposed by
President Donald Trump's administration for softening demand. In June,
president Tim Clark said demand was returning. 

The
airports are believed to have implemented increased security measures to fulfil
US Department of Homeland Security demands in order for the ban to be lifted.
Last week, Emirates and Etihad said they were working with US authorities to
meet the “security instructions”, some of which would be implemented
immediately and others to be phased in over 21 days.

The
measures include enhanced screening of electronic devices, more thorough
vetting of passengers, increased use of bomb-sniffing dogs and measures to
mitigate the potential threat posed by insider attacks, Homeland Security
Secretary John Kelly has said. The actions will be both seen and unseen, he
added.

They
represent one of the most intense airport security upgrades since the 9/11
attacks in 2001. The Department of Homeland Security says it will affect about
325,000 passengers a day flying to the US from 280 airports in 105 countries.

It
claims it is in response to intelligence showing terrorist groups have become
more sophisticated in their bomb-making efforts and could hide explosives in
laptops or other electronic devices.

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