The Department of Homeland Security is enacting an electronics travel ban on eight predominantly Muslim countries. The ban prohibits the use of any electronic device bigger than a smartphone aboard planes coming from the following airports:
- Amman (Jordan)
- Cairo (Egypt)
- Kuwait City (Kuwait)
- Doha (Qatar)
- Dubai and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)
- Istanbul (Turkey)
- Casablanca (Morocco)
- Riyadh and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
Any other type of electronic device, except medical devices, will have to go in the checked luggage. The ban is indefinite and it applies to US citizens as well, but not to members of the crew. It is set to run through October 14, but it could be extended another year if the evaluation stays the same. The rule does not apply to US airlines coming from these locations, but only to foreign carriers. US airlines do not offer direct US-bound flights from the affected airports.
Officially, the electronics ban has no relationship with the revised executive order issued by President Trump. It is based on intelligence suggesting that terror groups plan to smuggle explosives in everyday electronic devices and target commercial airlines. DHS did not target specific nations but acted on intelligence pointing to airports at risk.
The UK Is Taking Similar Precautions
Even the British government has announced a similar ban but on somewhat different countries. The British ban targets countries as a whole rather than individual airports:
- Saudi Arabia
It has not yet become effective, but it is in the implementation process. The deadline for implementation is Saturday, March 25. It is stricter than the US ban because it also applies to the 6 UK airlines. This second ban allows passengers to take most smartphones, game consoles, and DVD players onto the plane. Yet all other electronic devices, including eReaders, are not allowed. It will also affect any Turkish Airlines planes that are routed via Istambul.
The Turkish government said the US ban is wrong and should be reversed. But the Department of Homeland Security insists that extremists are seeking “innovative methods” to bring down jets. DHS cites the Somalia incident in February 2016, as well as the 2015 downing of a Russian airline in Egypt and attacks at airports in Brussels and Istanbul. The UK ban is based on the same intelligence as the US ban.
Opposition and Suppositions About the Electronics Ban
Civil rights activists have criticized this new ban, but have manifested no real opposition so far. Indeed the logistics of enforcing the ban will be complex, particularly when passengers take connecting flights elsewhere in the world before boarding a plane bound for the United States. In this case, they would need to check in the electronic devices before continuing their trip to the US. Therefore passengers will be incentivized to travel with US carriers, avoiding the above-mentioned hub-airports altogether.
Some say this measure is a way to reduce the competitiveness of three of the targeted airlines: Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. They are accused by their US competitors of receiving massive subsidies from their governments. So they are likely to lose massive income, particularly from first class and business class customers. US airlines are likely to reap major benefits.