US lifts laptop ban on flights from UAE and Turkey

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The US has lifted its ban on carrying electronics on flights from the United Arab Emirates and Turkey after the introduction of heightened security measures that meet new US security requirements.

Sani Sener, the chief executive of TAV Airports Holdings, which operates Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, said the ban was lifted on Wednesday morning after additional checks were introduced at Turkish airports. US-bound passengers are now checked four times, with two checks happening at the boarding area, he said.

Even before the laptop ban, passengers in Turkey were already being asked to turn on their laptops to ensure that the battery compartments had not been hollowed out to be replaced with possible explosives. US officials were also swayed by concerns that placing passengers’ devices together in the hold created an extra risk from lithium-ion batteries being placed close to each other, he said.

The moves comes two days after Abu Dhabi’s Etihad said it had also been exempted from the ban after instituting more rigorous inspections at its base in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The US in March banned passengers from carrying devices larger than a mobile phone in the main cabin on US-bound flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority nations. Concerns had arisen that jihadist groups such as Isis were planning to use electronic devices to attack passenger jets.

In the wake of the ban, Emirates, one of the world’s largest long-haul airlines, had to cut by a fifth the number of flights to the US, blaming weaker travel demand.

President Donald Trump’s attempts to bar the entry of citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen had also had an impact on the flow of passengers in Dubai, a main transit hub for travellers from the region. Tougher restrictions on travel to the US from Middle Eastern countries has added to the many headwinds faced by regional airlines after years of strong growth.

Emirates’ profits plunged by 82 per cent in the last financial year as the oil price slump, strong regional competition, terror attacks in Europe and the strong US dollar combined to deliver one of the carrier’s “most challenging years to date”.

The UAE airlines’ regional rival, Qatar Airways, said it remains subject to the laptop ban. Other airports included in the ban are Casablanca, Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Riyadh and Jeddah.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led Arab quartet that a month ago placed Qatar under an economic and travel embargo, forcing Qatar Airways to halt flights to its closest neighbours and extend some flight times to avoid their airspace.

The Doha-based airline has criticised the global air regulator for failing to take stronger action against its neighbours for measures that have hit the airline financially. But the airline, owned by the gas-rich government, has also said it is seeking to take a 10 per cent stake in American Airlines, continuing its policy of expanding globally through stakes in other carriers. It is also the biggest shareholder in IAG, which owns British Airways, after increasing its stake to 20 per cent last August.



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