US lifts laptop restriction for flights from Abu Dhabi

Kuwaiti social media activist Thamer al-Dakheel Bourashed putting his laptop inside his suitcase at Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait City before boarding a flight to the United States on March 23, 2017.
Kuwaiti social media activist Thamer al-Dakheel Bourashed putting his laptop inside his suitcase at Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait City before boarding a flight to the United States on March 23, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States on Sunday (July 2) lifted a ban on laptops in cabins on flights from Abu Dhabi to the United States, saying the United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Airways had put in place required tighter security measures.

Etihad welcomed the decision and credited a facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport where passengers clear US immigration before they land in the United States for “superior security advantages” that had allowed it to satisfy US requirements.

TSA officials visually verified that the measures had been implemented correctly, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

US officials assessed the airport on Saturday night, Abdul Majeed al-Khoori, acting chief executive of operator Abu Dhabi Airports told Reuters on Monday (July 3).

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The disruption to passengers from the new measures will be“very minimal” with the processing time for those travelling to the United States unchanged, he said by phone.  

Etihad is the only airline that operates direct flights from Abu Dhabi to the US with 45 flights a week.

In March, the US banned laptops in cabins on flights to the US originating at 10 airports in eight countries – Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey – to address fears that bombs could be concealed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft.

Britain quickly followed suit with a similar set of restrictions.

Last week, the US  unveiled security measures for flights to the country designed to prevent the expansion of the ban to more countries that could cause major logistical problems and deter travel.

DHS spokesman David Lapan said in a statement provided to Reuters that Etihad’s efforts to implement extra security measures were a model for foreign and domestic airlines.

Other airports and airlines in the region, such as Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airlines, remain under the restrictions, he said. “We look forward to working with other airlines to ensure implementation of these critical measures as quickly as possible,” said Lapan.

Dubai-based Emirates, the largest international airline by passenger traffic and a rival to Etihad, said in April it was cutting flights on five US routes because of reduced demand, after a travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump and the laptop ban.