Certain Electronics To Be Banned In Carry-on Bags For Some U.S.-Bound Flights

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government is temporarily barring passengers on certain flights originating in eight other countries from bringing laptops, iPads, cameras and most other electronics in carry-on luggage starting Tuesday.

The reason for the ban was not immediately clear. U.S. security officials would not comment. The ban was revealed Monday in statements from Royal Jordanian Airlines and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press the ban will apply to nonstop flights to the U.S. from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The ban was indefinite, said the official.

A second U.S. official said the ban will affect nine airlines in total, and the Transportation Security Administration will inform the affected airlines at 3 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday.

The officials were not authorized to disclose the details of the ban ahead of a public announcement and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Royal Jordanian said cellphones and medical devices were excluded from the ban. Everything else, the airline said, would need to be packed in checked luggage. Royal Jordanian said the electronics ban affects its flights to New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.

Egyptian officials at the Cairo International Airport say they have not received any instructions on banning passengers from bringing laptops, iPads, cameras and some other electronics on board direct flights to the United States.

The officials say that a New York-bound EgyptAir flight departed on Tuesday and that passengers were allowed to take their laptops and other electronics on board in their carry-on luggage.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri was among the passengers on board the New York flight.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

The United Arab Emirates’ national carrier says it has not changed its policies regarding electronics in aircraft cabins, suggesting it has not received new directives from American authorities.

Etihad Airways said in a statement on Tuesday that it will continue to work closely with American officials in the U.S. and at its base in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, but for now its “policies have not changed.”

It says it will update passengers if travel guidelines are revised.

U.S. border officials stationed in Abu Dhabi carry out passport and customs screenings before passengers board U.S.-bound flights under an existing pre-screening program.

David Lapan, a spokesman for Homeland Security Department, declined to comment. The Transportation Security Administration, part of Homeland Security, also declined to comment.

A U.S. government official said such a ban has been considered for several weeks. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the internal security discussions by the federal government.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly phoned lawmakers over the weekend to brief them on aviation security issues that have prompted the impending electronics ban, according a congressional aide briefed on the discussion. The aide was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The ban would begin just before Wednesday’s meeting of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Washington. A number of top Arab officials were expected to attend the State Department gathering. It was unclear whether their travel plans were related to any increased worry about security threats.

Brian Jenkins, an aviation-security expert at the Rand Corp., said the nature of the security measure suggested that it was driven by intelligence of a possible attack. He added that there could be concern about inadequate passenger screening or even conspiracies involving insiders — airport or airline employees — in some countries.

Another aviation-security expert, professor Jeffrey Price of Metropolitan State University of Denver, said there were disadvantages to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage. Thefts from baggage would skyrocket, as when Britain tried a similar ban in 2006, he said, and some laptops have batteries that can catch fire — an event easier to detect in the cabin than in the cargo hold.

Most major airports in the United States have a computer tomography or CT scanner for checked baggage, which creates a detailed picture of a bag’s contents. They can warn an operator of potentially dangerous material, and may provide better security than the X-ray machines used to screen passengers and their carry-on bags. All checked baggage must be screened for explosives.

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(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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