Turkey among Muslim countries electronic devices in direct flights banned by US and UK

The US announced late on Monday that electronic devices larger than a mobile phone will be prohibited in the passenger cabin on flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries, including Turkey.

According to a briefing by Department of Homeland Security officials on Monday night, the restricted items include laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers and games bigger than a mobile phone or a smartphone.

The 10 airports affected by the ban are Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, Cairo International Airport in Egypt, Istanbul Ataturk Airport in Turkey, King Abdulaziz International Airport and King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait, Mohammed V International Airport in Morocco, Hamad International Airport in in Qatar, and Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

The affected airlines are Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways for direct flights to the US. However, the restrictions will not apply to aircraft crews.

The airlines have been given 96 hours, beginning at 07:00 GMT on Tuesday, to ban devices bigger than a mobile phone or smartphone from cabins. The ban had no end date.

The new US ban will affect passengers on some 50 flights a day from some of the busiest hubs in the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa.

While Homeland Security officials said the restriction was based on intelligence reports about extremist groups that have an ongoing interest in staging attacks against American aviation targets.

“These are risk-based decisions and TSA continuously assesses security risks and seeks to balance necessary security requirements with their operational impact on the industry,” the statement said, referring to the Transportation Security Administration.

The UK also later issued a similar ban on all flights from airports in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia. The British ban related to devices larger than 16 centimeters (6 inches) by 9 cm (3-and-a-half inches).

“These new measures apply to flights into the UK and we are not currently advising against flying to and from those countries,” the UK government said in a statement.

Turkish Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan complained that the US ban was unfair. “This practice is neither fair for our country nor for the United States,” he told journalists in Ankara. “All kinds of precautions should be taken, however, we believe that it would be more productive and good for passengers’ wellness to be able to do their work on such devices [especially] during a journey of around 12 hours. Since yesterday, our officials have been talking with the US authorities to step back from this practice or to reduce it.”

Turkish Airlines operate non-stop flights to the US and the UK from Int’l Ataturk Airport, which deals with more than 80 million flights annually.

“Turkey already takes all necessary precautions for a safe flight,” Arslan said. “How to implement this ban is not our concern. We worry about a possible decline in the number of passengers, their travel comfort and how they benefit from this practice.”

March 21, 2017

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