A few hours ago it was rumored that the UK was also considering an in-flight electronics ban.
As we’ve written about extensively, the U.S. has announced a ban on electronics for flights originating in the Middle East and Africa. The ban applies for flights originating in Amman, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait City, and Riyadh. Passengers on nonstop flights originating from those cities to the U.S. need to check all electronics into the cargo hold, with the exception of cell phones and medical devices.
SkyNews is reporting that the UK government is indeed implementing new restrictions, though the details (and countries included) are rather different from the US directive.
The country list consists of direct flights to the UK from:
- Egypt (also on U.S. list)
- Jordan (also on U.S. list)
- Lebanon (no flights to U.S.)
- Tunisia (no flights to U.S)
- Turkey (also on U.S. list)
- Saudi Arabia (also on U.S. list)
If accurate, the overlap (and lack of overlap) is interesting. The UK restrictions will not apply to flights from Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait City, or Casablanca, as a start. That raises even more questions in my mind as to the implementation of the US directive. If UK and US agencies are acting off of shared/FVEY intelligence, why would the countries not match up?
As it is, these restrictions apply to all flights between these countries and the UK, which would impact eight UK airlines, and six international airlines. The UK directive seems to also specify sizes of devices rather than type:
PM's spokesman: passengers not allowed in plane cabin with phones, laptops or tablets larger than 16cm in length, 9.3cm width & 1.5cm depth
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) March 21, 2017
There is no word yet on whether other “large” electronic items like cameras will be prohibited from cabin baggage on UK flights.
At this point there are still a lot more questions than answers. I think it’s important to reiterate that no one here has questioned whether or not there is intelligence suggesting a need for further scrutiny in some areas (though the DHS notice does cite continuing analysis rather than new information).
Rather, our questions surround the fact that the restrictions being implemented don’t seem to make sense as preventative security measures.
If the concerns are over proper screening or infiltrated baggage staff it could instead, for example, make sense to have additional device and passenger screening on the jet bridge versus separating passengers from suspicious items. If the concern is a Somalia-type explosive device, how is it safer to have that in the cargo department? How is a cell-phone okay, but an e-reader isn’t?
And why does the UK think it’s fine to have electronics on direct flights from Abu Dhabi, regardless of carrier, but the U.S. won’t accept passenger electronics on Pre-Cleared flights from the same airport?
I don’t expect that we’ll get answers to these questions, necessarily, but I think it’s fair to ask them.
More info as this develops, and once the dust settles we’ll have tips on how to adjust plans around these new requirements. Air travel is about to get very interesting, it seems.