US And UK Ban Electronic Devices On Flights From Several Muslim Countries

US And UK Ban Electronic Devices On Flights From Several Muslim Countries

A former Trump administration official has called it “a Muslim ban by a thousand cuts”. And another slice was taken this morning.

President Trump travelling to a rally in Kentucky on Monday for some fucking reason because I guess rallies are just a thing that sitting presidents always do now (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Anyone flying on direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in predominantly Muslim countries will no longer be able to take any electronic device larger than a smartphone into the cabin. The prohibition, instituted by the US Department of Homeland Security, goes into effect today, though news of the possible electronics ban was leaked yesterday.

The indefinite ban on electronic devices includes anything larger than a smartphone, including laptops, handheld games and cameras, as well as tablets of any kind, including iPads, Kindles and Microsoft Surface.

One of the most curious aspects of the electronics ban is that it affects flights from Abu Dhabi on an airline where it’s possible to obtain pre-clearance and go through US Customs before you even board the flight. This alone has given aviations experts the impression that this new ban may be another rushed program implemented by the Trump administration without any logic or critical thinking applied.

There has been tremendous confusion around the electronics ban, after Royal Jordanian sent out a now-deleted tweet yesterday about the new rules on flights to the US. As of Wednesday morning, some of the airlines affected by the ban, such as Saudi Airlines, had sent out messages to passengers about prohibited items, while officials at other airlines had reportedly said that they had not yet been notified of any changes by the US Department of Homeland Security.

The direct flights to the US where electronic devices will be banned originate from the following airports:

  • Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan
  • Cairo International, Egypt
  • Ataturk International, Istanbul, Turkey
  • King Abdulaziz, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait International, Farwaniya, Kuwait
  • Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco
  • Doha International, Qatar
  • Dubai International, United Arab Emirates
  • Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates

The airlines that will be affected by the ban are Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and Kuwait Airways. If any of the airlines refuse to comply, and so far there has been no indication that they will, they could be prohibited from flying to the United States.

The Trump administration hasn’t given any indication that there is a specific threat coming from any of these 10 airports, but spoke about security in general terms. Notably, none of the eight countries affected by the electronics ban are included in the travel and refugee Muslim ban that was introduced and then revised in the past two months.

“We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent aviation security and terrorist groups continue to target aviation interests,” the Department of Homeland Security told the Wall Street Journal. “The record of terrorist attempts to destroy aircraft in flight is longstanding and well-known.”

The move will inconvenience countless travellers coming to the United States from these countries who might want to watch a movie on their iPad or read a book on their Kindle. Business travellers and government officials in particular might be wary of stowing electronic devices with potentially valuable information in the main cargo hold of the plane.

Traditionally, checking baggage with expensive or sensitive electronic equipment has been the best way to get something stolen from your luggage, and it’s unclear how this will impact international business and diplomacy between the United States and its allies in North Africa and the Middle East.

One guess: The impact will not be good.

Strangely, the UK just enacted a similar ban on large electronic devices, but for different countries and different airlines. The Minister of Home Affairs, Daniel Sandford, told the BBC that the ban is “obviously part of coordinated action with the US”, but that doesn’t explain why it affects different countries.

The Muslim electronics ban affects flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and Lebanon are not on the US list, and the UK list doesn’t include the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Morocco, which are all on the US list.

According to the BBC, the six UK airlines that will be impacted are:

  • British Airways
  • EasyJet
  • Monarch
  • Thomas Cook
  • Thomson

And the eight foreign airlines subject to the ban are:

  • Turkish Airlines
  • Pegasus Airways
  • Atlas-Global Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Tunis Air
  • Saudia

Not much is making sense at this point, but I guess expecting anything to make sense is a bit too much to ask of 2017.

[Wall Street Journal]

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