LATEST REPORT: Electronics Banned on 9 Airlines Flying to the U.S. — Indefinitely

Earlier we learned that a ban on electronics owned by Muslims was about to go into effect on flights to the U.S.

  • It was first revealed in a tweet by Royal Jordanian
  • It was confirmed by Saudi Arabia
  • Reports differed on whether 8 to 13 airlines or airports would be affected
  • It would not affect the flights of any US airline
  • It was unclear whether it would go into effect in 96 hours or last for 96 hours but was reportedly temporary
  • It was unclear whether it would involve flights departing the U.S. also to affected cities, although I didn’t think so.

Now the Associated Press is reporting that the ban involves 9 airlines and 10 cities and is ‘indefinite’. It starts Tuesday. The US government is expected to confirm this in the morning.

The airlines and cities involved:

  • Cairo (EgyptAir)
  • Amman (Royal Jordanian)
  • Kuwait City (Kuwait Airways)
  • Doha (Qatar)
  • Riyadh (Saudia)
  • Jeddah (Saudia)
  • Istanbul (Turkish)
  • Abu Dhabi (Etihad)
  • Dubai (Emirates)

I guessed each of these in my original post.

The inclusion of Abu Dhabi, where the U.S. has a preclearance facility and separate security screening prior to departure is interesting. The requirement that all electronics besides mobile phones be checked in luggage, when lithium ion batteries are normally not allowed in checked luggage due to fire risk suggests a belief that there’s a specific threat of greater danger (whether or not this assessment is true).

Thefts from checked baggage can be expected to “skyrocket, as when Britain tried a similar ban in 2006” and of course anyone whose plot really relies on bringing electronics — which I’ve regularly had to turn on for security staff in Abu Dhabi — inside the cabin can just be brought to other intermediate countries prior to flying to the U.S.

No visa is required, for instance, for a UAE citizen to transit Amsterdam or Paris enroute to the U.S. So unless there’s the expectation that security screeners themselves in these specific countries are themselves part of a plot (including those working US preclearance) but that screeners in European countries are likely to spot whatever is inside larger electronics then the ban is obviously for naught.

This is a huge gift to US airlines not serving these countries, because it encourages connections rather than flying non-stop for anyone unwilling to check their laptop. A checked laptop might go missing or become damaged, or might be searched unbeknownst to the passenger. And flights will be less productive for business travelers who might otherwise take advantage of inflight internet and keep up with work during their long haul trips. Travelers from India and Pakistan, who frequently travel via Gulf states, can transit Europe though transit without visa rules are strict.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Fewer folks flying direct (who must travel with laptops) might lead to more award space availability through the ME.

  2. At the face of it, this appears to be an attempt to help US carriers against Middle Eastern ones, without the former having to improve their service or produce.

    Inclusion of AUH, where security is 100% under US control, pretty much rules out security as the main motivation.

    Could there be a silver lining for frequent flyers? Maybe the Middle east carriers will lower prices and/or offer more award seats. I am just shooting in the dark here.

  3. Of course, I meant “product” above, not “produce”. 🙂 I wish we could edit our posts for such typos.

  4. I, for one, will be relieved to know that any nefarious devices will be safely stowed a few inches beneath the cabin floor and not just in some overhead bin. Those cargo containers in the belly are bombproof, aren’t they?

  5. In 2015 I had my checked bag opened by the TSA, and a nasty letter left in it for having a laptop inside it flying San Fran to Hong Kong…..and now this total backflip. Why are the US citizens letting Trump get away with making their country such a joke on the world stage?

  6. It’s also nice knowing that no ill-meaning person flying from the Middle East would ever think of flying to JFK via Tashkent on Uzbekistan Airways or to IAD via Addis Ababa on Ethiopian or to JFK via Lahore on Pakistan International Airways.

    In seriousness, this looks like a clear (and kind of stupid) swipe at the ME3. One wonders what would have happened if DL still serviced DXB and UA still serviced KWI.

  7. Good thing the middle east carriers are subsidized by their governments. They are going to need that cushion now. Man, it’s so ironic that the very same airlines that rode government intervention to the top are now getting a big fat anvil around their necks from government intervention. It’s almost like a karmic reminder that governments should keep out of competitive markets.

  8. Makes me curious how many and which Muslim-majority countries have direct flights to the U.S. that are not affected by this ban.

    Ethiopia? Pakistan?

  9. This is purely a protectionist measure by the Trump administration. There will be a retaliation…

  10. Perhaps the retaliation will be that any visitors to those countries who are US citizens or visited the US in the last 90 days, or who work for US companies will need super-enhanced security screening on arrival, and will be forced to pay $1000 for the privilege, After all, they might be spies….

  11. And, I meant to add, presumably also another response will be that any package being transported by FedEx or UPS will need enhanced screening which will take a couple of days, whereas DHL’s operations are regarded as adequately secure.

  12. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I am flying AUH-JFK in a couple of weeks. What happens if I show up at the gate with my laptop and my bag is already checked? Do they pull my checked bag out of the hold so I can stow my laptop? This is going to be a shitshow.

    On a related note, this makes absolutely no sense at all. So AUH with US preclearance and *US CBP personnel* can’t be trusted to effectively screen electronic items, but non-US personnel in a host of other more extremist countries are just fine? What moron made this policy?

    The next 4 years can’t go quickly enough.

  13. Hopefully ME3 carriers can launch many more fifth freedom flights via Europe. It seems like direct may not make sense anymore.

  14. How is this going to be enforced if the airlines just ignore it? Will the US search cabin luggage after people have landed and force them to fly back if they carried their luggage in cabininstead of check in?

  15. @iv: Do they say electric or electronic? But you never know. You cannot explain half-knowledgeable folks.

  16. Of course this is a backdoor attempt by the US legacy carriers to stop the rise of the ME carriers. If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, it’s a damn duck. Up until now I have been a fan of the travel bans but this is simply over the top and typical of American paranoia.

    I agree with Nick Knight when he says “Another reason not to visit the USA”. Fuck it. I expect though the ME carriers will find a way around this. The US dopes have been no match to them when it comes to business strategy and this will be no different.

    I have to laugh at the naivety of the airline official who says “This will affect very few travellers”. Rubbish! Absolute garbage. All I hope is that there is reciprocity and they ban the Yanks from doing the same.

    Each and every day the flights to the USA are many. Sure, not everyone carries a laptop ( a lot carry a bun in the oven, drop it in the US to get the passport and return to the ME on what we call “The Baby Express” ). I expect this will affect 10-12m passengers pa. So it’s an outright lie for the US Airline officials to say “Doesn’t affect to many people”. What a liar.

  17. EMBARGOED
    Press Office
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    Frequently Asked Questions
    March 21, 2017
    Contact: DHS Press Office, 202-282-8010
    *EMBARGOED UNTIL TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017 AT 6:00 AM EDT*
    AVIATION SECURITY ENHANCEMENTS FOR SELECT LAST POINT OF
    DEPARTURE AIRPORTS WITH COMMERICAL FLIGHTS TO THE UNITED
    STATES

    Q1: Why is the U.S. Government taking these steps now? Are these new policies in
    response to a specific terrorist threat or plot?
    A1: The U.S. Government is concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial
    aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years, as evidenced by the 2015 airliner
    downing in Egypt, the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia, and the 2016 armed attacks
    against airports in Brussels and Istanbul. Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups
    continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various
    consumer items.
    Based on this trend, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in consultation with
    relevant Departments and Agencies, has determined it is prudent to enhance security, to include
    airport security procedures for passengers at certain last point of departure airports to the United
    States. These enhancements include more stringent measures applied to 10 specific airports.
    The enhancement in security will require that all personal electronic devices (PEDs) larger than a
    cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage. These items will no longer be allowed
    to be carried onto aircraft at 10 select airports where flights are departing for the United States.
    Approved medical devices may be brought into the cabin after additional screening.
    This security enhancement will be implemented through a Security Directive (SD)/Emergency
    Amendment (EA) process, which includes industry notification, to affected air carriers that will
    implement the requirements.

    Q2: Why is DHS/TSA doing this now?
    A2: The Department of Homeland Security, in close cooperation with our intelligence
    community partners, continuously assesses and evaluates the threat environment. While a
    number of existing security measures remain in place, others will be modified, as deemed
    necessary to protect travelers. DHS will continue to adjust its security measures to ensure the
    highest levels of aviation security without unnecessary disruption to travelers.

    Q3: Is there a specific or credible threat to aviation?
    A3: We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent aviation
    security and terrorist groups continue to target aviation interests. Implementing additional
    security measures enhances our ability to mitigate further attempts against the overseas aviation
    industry.

    Q4: Did new intelligence drive a decision to modify security procedures?
    A4: Yes, intelligence is one aspect of every security-related decision. The record of terrorist
    attempts to destroy aircraft in flight is longstanding and well-known. We continually re-assess
    old intelligence and collect new intelligence.

    Q5: How did you select these airports and which ones are affected?
    A5: DHS, in close cooperation with our intelligence community partners, selected these airports
    based on the current threat picture. The affected overseas airports are: Queen Alia International
    Airport (AMM), Cairo International Airport (CAI), Ataturk International Airport (IST), King
    Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED), King Khalid International Airport (RUH), Kuwait
    International Airport (KWI), Mohammed V Airport (CMN), Hamad International Airport
    (DOH), Dubai International Airport (DXB), and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).

    Q6: Could more airports be added in the future, and might some of those be in the U.S.?
    A6: As threats change, so too will TSA’s security requirements.

    Q7: How long will these new procedures remain in place?
    A7: The new procedures remain in place until the threat changes. These are risk-based decisions
    and TSA continuously assesses security risks and seeks to balance necessary security
    requirements with their operational impact on the industry.

    Q8: Why won’t these procedures continue indefinitely, like the prohibition on bringing
    liquids through security screening?
    A8: See above.

    Q9: How are you defining, “larger than a smart phone?”
    A9: The size and shape of smart phones varies by brand. Smartphones are commonly available
    around the world and their size is well understood by most passengers who fly internationally.
    Please check with your airline if you are not sure whether your smartphone is impacted.

    Q10: Why does this only apply to large electronic devices? Why doesn’t this apply to
    mobile phones?
    A10: TSA seeks to balance risk with impacts to the traveling public and has determined that cell
    phones and smart phones will be allowed in accessible property at this time.

    Q11: Is air travel safe?
    A11: Yes. Today, all air travelers are subject to a robust security system that employs multiple
    layers of security, both seen and unseen, including:
    Intelligence gathering and analysis
    Cross-checking passenger manifests against watchlists
    Thorough screening at checkpoints
    Random canine team screening at airports
    Reinforced cockpit doors
    Federal air marshals
    Armed pilots
    A vigilant public
    In combination, these layers provide enhanced security creating a much stronger and protected
    transportation system for the traveling public. TSA continually assesses and evaluates the current
    threat environment and adjusts security measures as necessary to ensure the highest levels of
    aviation security without unnecessary disruption to travelers.

    Q12: How will TSA ensure foreign airports and air carriers are complying with the new
    procedures?
    A12: TSA conducts assessments of foreign airports and inspections of airlines to ensure all U.S.
    regulations and International security standards are being met at last point of departures to the
    United States.TSA directly assesses the security posture of last points of departure airports under the Foreign Airport Assessment Program (FAAP) and evaluates the implementation of the internationally recognized International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. TSA also utilizes its regulatory authorities over the air carriers which serve the United States to implement enhanced security measures at foreign locations. As an element of each air carrier’s legally binding
    approval to operate to and from the United States, the airline agrees to meet all security
    requirements stipulated by TSA.

    Q13: How does this affect the American public, either those traveling to/from these selected
    airports and those flying within the U.S.?
    A13: All passengers flying through and from these locations will have to place electronic devices
    that are larger than a cell phone/smart phone in their checked bags regardless of the passenger’s
    citizenship.

    Q14: Will the security procedures continue to apply to both international and domestic
    passengers?
    A14: This applies to all passengers traveling from 10 specific airports overseas.

    Q15: Why are you only implementing these measures overseas, could the same tactics be
    used domestically?
    A15: Electronic devices will still be allowed on all flights originating in the United States.
    Security procedures, both seen and unseen, are in place to mitigate the risk to flights in the
    United States.

    Q16: Does TSA have to hire additional officers, or transfer some to the affected airports, to
    ensure the new screening procedures are followed?
    A16: No additional TSA personnel are needed because TSA does not conduct screening at
    airports outside the United Sates.

    Q17: Are the security measures introduced on July 2, 2014 still in place?
    A17: A number of those implemented security measures remain in place while others may be
    modified as deemed necessary to protect travelers. Since July 2, 2014, a number of foreign
    governments have themselves enhanced aviation security, buttressing and replacing our own
    measures at these airports when it became routine at overseas airports for security officials to ask
    some passengers to turn on their electronic devices, including cell phones, before boarding
    flights to the United States.

    Q18: How many flights does this affect?
    A18: This will only impact flights from 10 of the more than 250 airports that serve as last points
    of departure to the United States. This will only impact a small percentage of flights to the
    United States. The exact number of flights will vary on a day to day basis.

    Q19: How many passengers will be affected?
    A19: These measures will apply to all passengers on flights from the 10 last points of departure
    airports, a small fraction of passengers travelling to the United States by air each day.

    Q20: Will this affect passengers enrolled in trusted traveler programs?
    A20: These measures will apply to all passengers on flights from certain locations regardless of
    trusted traveler status.

    Q21: What do you recommend passengers do if they are flying out of one of the last point
    of departure airports?
    A21: Passengers should pack large personal electronic devices in checked bags and contact their
    air carrier with additional questions.

    Q22: How will this affect the screening process at the airport?
    A22: Generally, passengers will be instructed to place large electronic devices in their checked
    bags when traveling from one of the last point of departure airports. We provided guidance to the
    airlines who will determine how to implement and inform their passengers.

    Q23: How will this affect passengers with connections?
    A23: TSA recommends passengers transferring at one of the 10 affected airports place any large
    personal electronic devices in their checked bags upon check-in at their originating airport.

    Q24: Can you provide any examples of recent terrorist plotting against the aviation
    sector? Please highlight the trend you’re concerned about.
    A24: Although the U.S. has instituted robust aviation security measures since 9/11, our
    information indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector
    are intensifying given that aviation attacks provide an opportunity to cause mass casualties and
    inflict significant economic damage, as well as generate overwhelming media coverage. We note that disseminated propaganda from various terrorist groups is encouraging attacks on
    aviation, to include tactics to circumvent aviation security. Terrorist propaganda has highlighted
    the attacks against aircraft in Egypt with a soda can packed with explosives in October 2015, and
    in Somalia using an explosives-laden laptop in February 2016. Terrorists have historically tried to hide explosives in shoes in 2001, use liquid explosives in 2006, and conceal explosives in printers in 2010 and suicide devices in underwear in 2009 and 2012. Within the last year, we have also seen attacks conducted at airports to include in Brussels and Istanbul.

    Q25: How were these countries informed?
    A25: USG officials coordinated with their foreign counterparts to inform them of the changing
    threat. TSA has a formal process for notifying airlines through the EA/SD process. This process
    was used to notify affected airlines of the needed changes.

    Q26: How will this be implemented?
    A26: The Airlines will have 96 hours to implement. The manner of an EA/SD is to tell an
    airline the end result required (no electronic devices larger than a cell phone allowed in the
    cabin) and allow them the flexibility to implement within their business model.

    Q27: Will U.S. direct hires/diplomats posted in these countries be told to take other
    routes/airlines?
    A27: No. U.S. government employees in the affected countries have the option, but are not
    required, to modify their travel routes. The new routes must comply with all U.S. government
    travel regulations.

    Q28: Will this apply to flights departure to affected countries?
    A28: No. At this time, evaluated intelligence says that the threat exists at the 10 last point of
    departure airports.

    Q29: Does this start tomorrow?
    A29: Airlines were notified on March 21st at8:00 a.m. EDT. They have 96 hours within which to
    comply.

    Q30: How long will these enhanced security measures be in effect?
    A30: These measures will be in effect indefinitely. However, DHS and TSA continue to
    evaluate our aviation security processes and policies based on the most recent intelligence.

    ###

  18. omigawd this sucks… for me personally, and in general. I’m flying 25 March from IST to SFO, right on the enforcement deadline… I’ll stash my cameras and laptop and hope for no breakage and no theft. Hope. Faint hope, I fear. I’d rather carry on my electronics and pretend I didn’t know about this, but that probably wouldn’t work. Whatever happened to the advice to keep electronics with you at all times? Agree this will create retaliation, agree there is no rational security reason for this, agree it’s a hidden economic sanction against airlines competing with US lines… all of that, plus it’s so effing inconvenient.

  19. Expect a lot of more stuff being stolen from checked bags. The bad guys also know that now almost every bag or suitcase will have some valuable electronics in there.

  20. How do you know that these countries are “Muslim Majority”? What politically correct fool thinks this is a fact? All electronics should be banned on ALL flights, everywhere, including cellphones.

  21. I’m no fan of US carriers (to put it mildly) or Trump (to put it extremely mildly), so like others I’m extremely skeptical of this new policy and the reasons for it. And I don’t get the logic of it in so many ways. However, it gives me pause that the top Dem on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, has endorsed it: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/03/21/laptop-ban-begins-today-cabins-nine-airlines-flying-non-stop-us-mideast-and-africa/99433864/

  22. For those having to stash electronics…..don’t forget to remove the SD/memory cards from cameras, and/or back up your data for notebooks/tablets….which everyone should be doing anyway. ☺

  23. How lucky for the American carriers, considering the CEO’s of the 3 big airlines brought grievances to the Trump administration about the subsidiaries from the Gulf carriers..

  24. Interesting. In the absence of knowing what credible intelligence speaks to real threats I will withold a knee jerk, other than to say before I read the following it was my assumption that this was something Delta CEO Ed Bastion thought up and convinced the government of. More protectionist than protection?
    Now though, the UK has introduced similar restrictions. Note similar, not same. Why? Included in the UK rule are some British-based airlines too, not just ME airlines, AND, Quatar, Etihad and Emirates are excluded from the ban.
    My conclusion: The US had combined protectionism and protection. The give away is that US airlines are excluded. A shame, because all this does is further lead the public to question everything Homeland security (sic) does. After all, just how many would-be terrorists has TSA EVER caught? We know the answer to that…..

  25. Hadley, did you read the link in question? First off, the Somali attack was from a far less secure airport than DOH, DXB, or AUH. Secondly, laptop batteries are made of lithium ion and any potential fire could bring down an aircraft like an A380 loaded with people. Better to deal with a fire in the cabin over in the hold. I can see some airports getting banned, but DOH, DXB, and AUH do a better job of securing their airports than 99% of the US airports do. The ban should exclude the airports in Qatar and the UAE that I mentioned since they are some of the best in the world at security.

    The easiest thing to do would be for the US to increase their security on the ground at DOB, DXB, and AUH (they already have security people at AUH) and ensure that laptops are taken care of correctly. What the real motivation is supporting US legacy airlines who are being exposed as bad by the Gulf
    airliners. It’s protectionism.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandratalty/2017/03/21/new-electronic-travel-ban-is-trade-protectionism-for-legacy-carriers/#6901e4f41203

    Read this, this link is from a right of center website. 😉

    P.S. This has nothing to do with Trump or left or right, all this is common sense.

  26. Also of note, the UK ban excludes DOH, DXB, and AUH. Seems like the government is trying to pull a fast one here to protect US airlines like American, Delta, and United.

  27. Doggie —

    You have got to be kidding me — you cite an article where Gary Leff is the very first person cited and you expect me to consider that article authoritative?

    You are deluded.

    Don’t you think that in the interregnum between those attacks and now that al Queda in the Arabian Peninsula has been attempting to perfect its battery bombs as the article clearly states?

    Better that you re-read the article and provide me with something other than Gary’s uninformed and repitious drivel.

  28. Fine of you to call me what you want, but you didn’t deal with the main issues at hand. It’s attack ad hominem. Like I said in the last reply, I have no issues with certain airports getting this ban, it’s the inclusion of DOH, DXB, and AUH (where there is US security personnel assisting checks) in that where I start to question what the real point of it is.

    I did read the article you posted, I can quote this passage:

    “The problem with this theory is that it implies that the security screening of electronic devices at the 10 airports is no better than at the airport in a failed state like Somalia. The pilot of the Airbus A320 involved in that incident said of that airport: “the security is zero.” Airport employees had conspired with the bomber to get the laptop through security.”

    If we want to be real specific, your inference is that DOH, DXB, and AUH have similar security to MGQ. If that if your inference, that’s truly laughable on your end.

    Also, we’re having this debate on Gary’s blog, I’m sure he thanks you for the click revenue.

  29. I would like to believe the US government line, but I do have a few reservations.

    Ever since the birth of modern terror threat in the 1960s, all major security precautions have been applied to all flights from / at all airports. The 9/11 only strengthened that trend. Then look at “underwear bomber”, “shoe bomber”, etc. When the fear was real, the response applied to all flights from anywhere, to anywhere, domestic or international. Liquids, matches, box-cutters were banned form all flights.

    This is the first major threat we are encountering where the authorities seem to believe that the terrorists will not target a friendly nation (like Germany or Norway) or even a crime-infested one if served by one of the US3 legacy carriers (like Senegal or Nigeria)!

    I am sorry, but serious aviation security has never been approached in this way and it is a difficult pill to swallow.

    So, it if looks like a duck, walks like a duck,…

  30. I am going to Paris from Jeddah. I am having schengen visa with me. My Flight is Royal Jordanian air line . It is one stop air line in Amman, The transit time at air port is 4.5 Hours. You can please confirm, still i need transit visa for Amman.

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