Electronics banned in flight cabins in US & Britain flights from Middle East & Africa

Concerns around terrorists linked to al-Qaeda conspiring to plant a bomb on an airliner have led to the indefinite banning of electronic devices bigger than a cellular device within airline cabins. The ban was announced on Monday by the United States, banning carry-on electronics from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified security threats.

Britain has followed the US in the electronics ban on inbound flights from the Middle East and North African nations. Prime Minister Theresa May’s office announced on Tuesday that laptops and other larger electronic devices would be banned on direct inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

“Direct flights to the UK from these destinations continue to operate to the UK subject to these new measures being in place,” the government spokesman told reporters. “We think these steps are necessary and proportionate to allow passengers to travel safely.”

Passengers would not be allowed to bring phones, laptops or tablets over 16cm in length, 9,3cm in width, and with a depth of over 1,5cm into the cabin. These items would have to be in checked-in hold luggage, he said.

The move comes a week after President Donald Trump’s second bid to curb travel from a group of Muslim-majority nations was blocked by the courts. Turkey said on Tuesday it would ask the United States to reverse the electronics ban. Airlines hit by the ban include flag-carrier Turkish Airlines, which has the highest foreign sales of any Turkish company.

“We particularly emphasise how this will not benefit the passenger and that reverse steps or a softening should be adopted,” Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan told reporters.

Arslan said Turkish officials were speaking to their relevant American counterparts regarding the ban, which applies to direct flights to the US. The minister said he hoped there would be a “positive” outcome from the talks, which began Monday.

“Annually, 80 million flights take off from Istanbul and in my opinion, people should not confuse it” with less high-profile destinations, Arslan added. “In that sense, we already take all kinds of security measures.”

A spokesperson from Emirates airline, another carrier expected to be severely effect by the ban, told Reuters news agency the new restrictions in the US were expected to last seven months. Trevor Jensen, an aviation consultant and former airline captain, told Al Jazeera that keeping a large number of computers with lithium batteries in the hold also presented safety issues.

“I hope that we are not just knee-jerking here and that this is a credible threat – that the safety issues have also been very carefully thought through,” he said.

Another aviation-security expert, Jeffrey Price of Metropolitan State University of Denver, said there was another disadvantage to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage.

Thefts from baggage would skyrocket, as when Britain tried a similar ban in 2006, he said.

– News24 & Al Jazeera

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