Muscat: Gulf-based airlines have started taking measures to comply with the new rule banning electronic devices on flights to the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). Emirates has introduced a new service that will enable customers to use their laptops and tablet devices until just before they board their flights to the US, while another UAE-based airline Etihad announced enhanced security measures had been put into place for travellers going to UK. “Whilst Abu Dhabi International Airport is not listed within the more recent ban related to direct flights operating to the United Kingdom, enhanced security screening is likely for guests travelling to London, Manchester and Edinburgh,” Etihad stated.
It also said: “Following a directive from the US authorities, we have been advised that guests travelling to the United States from the Abu Dhabi International Airport are not permitted to carry electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone on board.
“Mobile phones and medical devices are permitted but larger items, including laptops, tablets, cameras and e-readers, will need to be placed into baggage that is checked-in. This must be done at the start of any US-bound journey, which may not necessarily be at Abu Dhabi Airport. The ban does not affect flights leaving from the US towards Abu Dhabi and beyond,” the airline added.
Meanwhile, Emirates said that customers travelling to the US via Dubai will be able to use their laptops and tablet devices during the first part of their journeys, and during transit in Dubai.
“They must then declare and hand over their laptops, tablets, and other banned electronic devices to the security staff at the gate just before boarding their US-bound flight. The devices will be carefully packed into boxes, loaded into the aircraft hold, and returned to the customer at their US destination. There will be no charges for this service,” it said.
“Passengers on the US-bound flights starting their journeys in Dubai are encouraged to pack their electronic devices into their check-in luggage in the first instance to avoid delays.
Customers should be aware that there will be a detailed search of all hand baggage on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai. They should therefore declare their devices before the search, or ensure their electronic devices are packed into their check-in luggage in the first instance,” it added.
Sir Tim Clark, President, Emirates Airline, said: “Our aim is to ensure compliance with the new rules, while minimising disruption of passenger flow and impact on customer experience. Our new complimentary service enables passengers, particularly those flying for business, to have the flexibility to use their devices until the last possible moment.
“Once on board, they can still stay connected on their mobile phones. Our historical data shows that on Emirates’ US flights, 90 per cent of passengers using our onboard mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity services do so via their smart phones. Only 6 per cent connect via their laptops, and 4 per cent via their tablets. That is not to say that other passengers are not using their devices offline, but perhaps the silver lining to this is that they can now justifiably give themselves a break from their devices, enjoy our onboard service and catch up on the latest movies, music, and TV box sets that we have on offer.”
From Saturday, March 25, travellers on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai International airport will not be allowed to carry any electronic device larger than a cell phone or smartphone, excluding medical devices, into the aircraft cabin. Travellers must pack these electronic devices in their checked-in baggage.
This new security directive, issued by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), applies to all passengers travelling on non-stop flights to the US from Dubai, including those in transit. It does not apply to passengers travelling on Emirates’ US-bound flights via Milan and Athens, or Emirates flights to/from any other destination.
Travel agents revealed that the enhanced screening will begin from Muscat International Airport only for passengers travelling to the United States and the United Kingdom. “So, people should ensure they have more time in hand when they are heading towards the UK and the US,” a travel agent warned.
Travel agents have already started advising people travelling to United States to carry all their electronic items in their check-in baggage. “Even if they are transiting via Dubai, Doha, Istanbul or Abu Dhabi, we are advising our passengers to keep all their electronic items in the check-in baggage,” Riyaz Kuttery, Chief Operating Officer of Mezoon International Travel, remarked.
Meanwhile, UK carrier British Airways has started “advising” passengers of the region to contact their airline with queries about any additional security measures they may experience at some Middle Eastern countries.
“The safety and security of our passengers and colleagues is our top priority, and we work closely with the police and the government authorities to remain vigilant and to respond to any changes in the security situation. The changes announced today by the UK and US governments are not expected to have any impact on security procedures for those departing from Heathrow,” it stated.
“Passengers travelling to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia are advised to contact their airline with queries about any additional security measures they may experience at airports in those countries,” it said in a statement issued.