Laptops Airplane Flight
Passengers
on a flight out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New
York City on May 26.

REUTERS/Lucas
Jackson


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The US has ended a four-month ban
on passengers carrying laptops aboard US-bound flights from
certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to
an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by
President Donald Trump’s administration.

Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia was
the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US
Department of Homeland Security confirmed in a tweet late on
Wednesday local time.

Middle East carriers have blamed Trump’s travel restrictions,
which include barring citizens of some majority-Muslim countries
from visiting the US, for a downturn in demand on US routes.

In March, the US banned large electronics in cabins on flights
from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over
concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken
onboard aircraft.

The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected — Emirates,
Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian
Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir, and Royal
Air Maroc — which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US
from the region.

A ban on citizens of six majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Libya,
Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — remains in place but has been
limited after several US court hearings challenged the
restrictions.

“The aviation industry has been trying to come together with a
united message to governments and stakeholders about regulation
and supporting the industry,” said Will Horton, a senior analyst
at the Australian aviation consultancy Capa.

“That was dealt a first blow from the travel ban and then a
second from the large electronics ban.”

The International Air Transport Association, a leading industry
group, criticized the laptop ban as ineffective, as security
experts argued that militants could travel to the US via Europe
or elsewhere where the restrictions didn’t apply.

The restrictions were imposed as the major US carriers American
Airlines Group, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines resumed
their campaign against the Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad, and
Qatar Airways by pressuring the new US administration to
renegotiate its open-skies agreements with the United Arab
Emirates and Qatar.

But US and Middle East officials said the campaign and the travel
restrictions were not related.

US officials lifted the ban after visiting the 10 airports in
Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Qatar, and Turkey over the past three weeks to confirm
new security measures announced last month were being
implemented.

On Thursday, the US issued a revised directive to airlines around
the world in response to requests that it clarify
aviation-security measures scheduled to start taking effect this
week.

The new requirements include enhanced passenger screening at
foreign airports, increased security protocols around aircraft
and in passenger areas, and expanded canine screening. They
affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,000 commercial
flights arriving daily in the US, on 180 airlines from 280
airports in 105 countries.

Airlines that fail to meet the new security requirements could
face restrictions on in-cabin electronics.

The United Kingdom continues to enforce a similar in-cabin ban on
electronics ban on flights from some Middle Eastern airports.
Those restrictions apply to flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan,
Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Michael Perry)

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