The United Kingdom is due to announce a ban on electronic devices in planes following America's ban announcement earlier today, reports.
The US government recently declared it would be ordering passengers on nonstop, US-bound flights from a handful of mostly Middle Eastern and North African countries to pack electronic devices other than mobile phones in their checked baggage. Other electronics, including laptops and tablets, will be indefinitely banned from the passenger cabin.
It raises concerns that the coordinated action has occurred off the back of intelligence about potential terror plots, especially following on from the attempted destruction of a plane in Somalia last year which was discovered to be linked to a laptop.
US officials said the affected airlines were to have 96 hours to implement the security order or face being barred from flying to the United States. The electronics ban affects flights from international airports in:
- Amman, Jordan
- Kuwait City, Kuwait
- Cairo, Egypt
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Casablanca, Morocco
- Doha, Qatar
- Dubai, UAE
- Abu Dhabi, UAE
About 50 flights a day, all on foreign carriers, will be impacted thanks to the US ban. The officials said no US-based airlines have non-stop flights from those cities to the United States. Details of the UK's ban are still sparse and are thought to be slightly different to the States', so it is not yet known what impact this may have on which carriers.
The officials said the decision was prompted by "evaluated intelligence" about ongoing potential threats to airplanes bound for the United States. The officials would not discuss the timing of the intelligence or if any particular terror group is thought to be planning an attack.
The ban would affect laptops, iPads, cameras and most other electronics. Royal Jordanian Airlines tweeted about the ban Monday, telling passengers that medical devices would also be allowed on board with passengers.
Details of the ban were first disclosed by Royal Jordanian and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia. In its statement, Royal Jordanian said the electronics ban would affect its flights to New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.
Across the Atlantic early on Tuesday, problems and confusion ensued.
Egyptian officials at the Cairo International Airport said they had 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 said a New York-bound EgyptAir flight departed and that passengers were allowed to take their laptops and other electronics on board in their carry-on luggage.
A spokesman for Royal Jordanian says the airliner has not yet started to enforce the new U.S. regulation. Basel Kilani has told The Associated Press that the airline was still awaiting formal instructions from the relevant U.S. departments, which could possibly come later on Tuesday.
Brian Jenkins, an aviation-security expert at the Rand Corp., said earlier that the nature of the security measure suggested that it was driven by intelligence of a possible attack. There could be concern about inadequate passenger screening or even conspiracies involving insiders — airport or airline employees — in some countries, he said.
A U.S. government official said such a ban has been considered for several weeks. The ban would begin just before Wednesday's meeting of the U.-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.
Another aviation-security expert, Jeffrey Price, said there could be downsides to the policy.
"There would be a huge disadvantage to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage," said Price, a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He said thefts from baggage would skyrocket, as when Britain tried a similar ban in 2006, and some laptops have batteries that can catch fire — an event easier to detect in the cabin than the hold.