On March 21, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it intended to ban all carry-on electronic devices larger than smartphones on direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries. While passengers can still travel with these items, they must be packed in checked baggage. The ban applies to Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Doha, Qatar; Casablanca, Morocco; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It is set to take effect on March 25, 2017 and last until at least October 14, 2017. U.S. officials have said that the ban was instituted in response to intelligence that indicated that the Islamic State is developing a bomb hidden in portable electronics and laptop batteries. Hours after the U.S. imposed the ban, the United Kingdom imposed a similar ban on direct flights to the U.K. from airports in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Unlike the United States’ ban, which does not affect any American airlines, the UK’s ban will affect domestic airlines that have direct flights to and from the affected countries.

Airbus A330-302 Qatar Airways (Wikimedia commons/curimedia)

The ban’s efficacy, as well as its effects on global transportation, have been questioned by security officials. A U.S. security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post “Why should I feel safer if the laptop is stowed in the belly of the plane and the perpetrator can use his iPhone to set if off?” The ban has also drawn the ire of civil rights activists. Hina Shamsi of the ACLU said that “The administration hasn’t provided a security rationale that makes sense for this measure targeting travelers from airports in Muslim-majority countries” and that the policy “sends a signal of discriminatory targeting and must be heavily scrutinized.”

Others contend that the policy is a way to protect U.S. business interests. When President Trump met with U.S. airline executives, he said that he would help them compete with foreign competitors that are “subsidized by foreign governments, big league.” When it comes to international traffic, Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways – all carriers that have hubs in the affected airports – comprise the most significant competition to U.S. carriers. With the ban in place, travelers may opt to avoid these airlines.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. Airplane Electronics Ban Result of ISIS Threat: Report – CNBC
  2. Britain and U.S. Ban Most Electronic Devices in Cabins on Flights from Several Muslim-Majority Countries – The Washington Post
  3. Donald Trump Electronics Ban Against Eight Muslim-Majority Countries Set to Continue for Seven Months – The Independent
  4. Intelligence on ISIS Led to Restrictions on Electronic Devices – The Boston Globe
  5. What is the Logic Behind Trump’s New ‘Electronics Ban’? People are Stumped. – The Washington Post