US, UK to ban electronics in cabin on flights from some countries

The White House confirms new restrictions on electronic devices carried by travellers to the US from 10 airports in response to unspecified terror threats.
Under new rules, travellers to the US from 10 airports, including Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, will have to put all personal electronic devices larger than a phone in their checked baggage.
Under new rules, travellers to the US from 10 airports, including Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, will have to put all personal electronic devices larger than a phone in their checked baggage.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Passengers travelling to the US from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries will be prohibited from bringing laptops, tablets and other portable electronic devices on board with them when they fly, according to new rules that took effect yesterday.

Fliers can travel with these items, but they must be packed in their checked baggage. The ban will remain in place indefinitely, federal officials said.

Britain will follow suit, according to British Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman.

US senior administration officials said the rules were prompted by "evaluated intelligence" that terrorists continue to target commercial aviation by "smuggling explosives in portable electronic devices".

"Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration acting administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last-point-of-departure airports to the United States," officials said.

  • Affected airports in US ban

  • • Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar

    • Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

    • Abu Dhabi International Airport, UAE

    • Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey

    • Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, Jordan

    • Cairo International Airport, Egypt

    • King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

    • King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

    • Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca, Morocco

    • Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait

One example of a threat they cited involved a bomb, possibly hidden in a laptop, that exploded on board a Somali plane going from Mogadishu to Djibouti, not a US-bound flight.

But a person familiar with the security warning said the government has long been concerned about the aspirations of a Syria- based terrorist group to build explosive devices hidden inside electronics in a way that would be hard to detect.

In 2014, such concerns led to a tightening of security procedures on US-bound flights but, at the time, some officials said the design of such devices did not appear to have moved past the planning stages.

One person familiar with the new restrictions said they were based on more recent intelligence that suggested terrorists had further developed such explosives.

Under the restrictions, travellers to the US from 10 mostly Middle Eastern airports will be required to put all personal electronic devices larger than a cellphone or smartphone in their checked baggage.

US airlines are not affected by the ban because none offer direct US-bound flights from the affected airports.

Ten airports in eight countries - Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - are affected. US officials said the airports were selected based on the "current threat picture".

Officials said airlines will have 96 hours from 0700 GMT (3pm Singapore time on Tuesday) to comply with the restrictions.

Carriers that fail to follow them risk losing their authorisation to operate in the US.

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, Ms May's spokesman said that passengers on direct flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia will not be allowed in airplane cabins with phones, laptops or tablets larger than 16cm long, 9.3cm wide and 1.5cm deep.

The spokesman said passengers will have to check-in such items in their baggage.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'US, UK to ban electronics in cabin on flights from some countries'. Print Edition | Subscribe