U.S. Lifts Laptop Ban on Emirates Airline, Turkish Airlines

By Robert Wall Features Dow Jones Newswires

Emirates Airline and Turkish Airlines Wednesday said their passengers were cleared to again use laptops and other electronics on U.S.-bound flights, further scaling back a ban Washington put in place on some flights over concerns about terrorism.

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Emirates Airline, the world's largest international carrier by traffic, said the restrictions on the use of laptops, tablets and other devices that had been in place since March were lifted "effective immediately."

The U.S. government Sunday began rolling back the ban when it cleared passengers at Etihad Airways to use electronic gadgets again on U.S.-bound flights after it audited security procedures at the carrier's Abu Dhabi hub.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in March had imposed restrictions on 10 airports across the Middle East and Africa and had threatened to roll them out more widely unless airports improved security checks.

Washington imposed the ban amid concerns terrorists were trying to smuggle explosives inside a laptop or tablet to get past security and set off an explosion once a plane was aloft. The department required passengers to either check in their devices or leave them at home.

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the ban could be widened to airports that fail to adopt more stringent security, including enhanced passenger screening. Airports already subject to the restrictions could see those lifted in return for closer checks.

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The 280 foreign airports that send direct flights to the U.S. must have explosives-detecting scanners within 21 days, one step the Department of Homeland Security has mandated to avoid a broader ban on laptops aboard flights.

Opponents of widening the restrictions, including the International Air Transport Association that represents over 200 airlines and the European Union, were concerned it could dent demand for travel and that storing a large number of electronic devices in the cargo area of planes posed safety concerns. Lithium batteries used in many of the devices pose a fire risk.

Emirates Airline said it had "been working hard in coordination with various aviation stakeholders and the local authorities to implement heightened security measures and protocols that meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's new security guidelines for all U.S.-bound flights."

Emirates Airline, like rivals Etihad and Qatar Airways, focus much of their activity on ferrying passengers via their Persian Gulf state gateways between cities in Europe and the U.S. and Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The electronics ban hit their business as lucrative business travelers considered defecting from the airline, flying via other hubs to avoid having to check in their gadgets.

Turkish Airlines on Wednesday also allowed passengers again to use electronics on its U.S.-bound flights. Chief Executive Officer Bilal Eksi on Wednesday said via Twitter he expected a similar ban imposed by the U.K. to be lifted on the airline's big Istanbul hub.

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 05, 2017 03:18 ET (07:18 GMT)