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Sun 26 Mar 2017 08:46 AM

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Emirates and Etihad passengers press on despite US ban

"The bigger problem for my family is the no smoking. On a long flight, they become restless after three hours"

Emirates and Etihad passengers press on despite US ban
A Tunisian traveller measures the size of his cell phone in a frame on the check-in counter before boarding his flight for London at Tunis-Carthage International Airport on March 25, 2017. (FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

A controversial ban on carry-on laptops and tablets on flights from the Middle East to the United States and Britain went into effect Saturday, with less fanfare and frustration than expected.

From Dubai to Doha, passengers on dozens of flights checked in their electronic devices, many shrugging off the measure as yet another inconvenience of global travel.

"It's a rule. I follow the rules," said Rakan Mohammed, a Qatari national who flies from Doha to the US two to three times a year.

"The bigger problem for my family is the no smoking. On a long flight, they become restless after three hours."

At Dubai International, one of the world's busiest hubs, flag carrier Emirates dispatched staff to guide passengers through one of the most intense travel weekends of the year.

About 1.1 million people are expected to pass through as the city marks UAE spring break, Dubai Airports said.

An estimated 260,000 travellers were expected each day from Friday through Monday. Dubai International Airport expect 89 million passengers this year.

Staff in red suits could be seen at the airport Saturday carrying signs explaining the electronics ban, ready to appease travellers with games and activities for children.

Emirates, which operates 18 direct flights to the US daily, also began a service to enable passengers to use their electronic devices after check-in and until boarding.

Samuel Porter, who was travelling out of Dubai with his family, nonetheless decided to "avoid delays" at the airport by putting his laptop in the hold.

"The only issue is the kids. I have two kids and the iPad is always in their hands. Maybe they will watch a documentary and learn something useful this time", he said.

The United States this week announced a ban on all electronics larger than a standard smartphone on board direct flights out of eight countries across the Middle East.

US officials would not specify how long the ban will last, but Emirates said that it had been instructed to enforce the measures until at least October 14.

The ban covers electronics sold at Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said this week.

Adding to the disruption on Saturday, a number of flights out of Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports were delayed due to thunderstorms, including an Emirates flight to Houston.

Abu Dhabi, home of UAE national carrier Etihad Airways, is one of the few international airports with a US Customs and Border Protection Facility, which processes immigration and customs inspections before departure.

But those flying to the US from Abu Dhabi will still need to check in their electronics, Etihad said.

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