Meeting planners flying to parts of Africa and the Middle East will not be able to get much inflight work done, due to the latest U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) electronics ban that affects about 50 direct daily flights to the U.S. as of March 21.
On March 20, TSA officials sent out an email to nine different airlines traveling from 10 airports that said any electronics larger than the size of a cell phone—laptops, tablets and cameras included—will not be allowed inside airplane cabins on U.S.-bound flights and will have to be put in checked luggage. The reason being that the restriction could prevent terrorists from smuggling explosive devices in the consumer items; however, officials wouldn’t disclose why it was safer to have electronics in cargo instead of in the cabin. (It’s also important to note that outbound flights leaving the U.S. will not be affected.
The affected airports are: Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan; Cairo International Airport in Egypt; Ataturk International Airport in Turkey; King Abdul-Aziz International and King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait International Airport; Mohammed V Airport in Morocco; Hamad International Airport in Qatar; and Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE. The affected airlines are Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudia Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.
While the ban has already spurred frustrations, especially among business travelers who won’t be able to work on long-haul flights, the airlines are already finding loopholes to ease passenger woes. Qatar Airways plans to loan laptops to business-class passengers once onboard, and the airline will also allow passengers to gate-check prohibited electronic devices.
Trump administration officials insist that the ban is necessary based on intelligence research and that it is indefinite. A similar ban was put into effect on inbound flights to the U.K. from six countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt Tunisia and Saudia Arabia.