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Qatar Airways joins Mideast rivals in lifting laptop ban

DUBLIN/DUBAI: Qatar Airways said yesterday passengers travelling to the United States can now carry their laptops and other large electronics on board, ending a three month in-cabin ban on devices for the Doha-based airline. Qatar Airways joins Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Etihad Airways, which have also announced this week a lifting of the ban on their US flights.

In March, the United States imposed the ban on direct flights originating at 10 airports in eight countries – Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey – to address fears that bombs could be concealed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft. Qatar Airways said in a statement on Thursday the ban had been lifted after the airline and its hub airport Hamad International met with new U.S. security requirements.

The United States announced on June 29 enhanced security measures for flights to the country which require additional time to screen passengers and personal electronic devices for possible explosives. Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told reporters in Dublin the airline was found to be in compliance with the “new draconian requirements” after an audit over the previous two days.

US transport officials were due to visit Qatar Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines on July 5 to check the latest measures were in place, a spokesman for the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told Reuters on Wednesday. TSA said on Twitter yesterday the restrictions on Qatar Airways and Hamad International had been lifted. Airlines affected by the ban have complained that demand on US flights had been weakened by restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Middle East carriers saw demand rise by 3.7 percent in May compared with a year earlier, close to an eight-year low, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said yesterday. IATA said the weaker growth was reflective of the laptop ban on US-bound flights and uncertainty over President Trump’s proposed travel bans. The new US security measures, which take effect within three weeks of the announcement, will affect around 325,000 passengers a day travelling on 180 airlines from 280 airports around the world, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Airlines that fail to meet the new security requirements could still face in-cabin restrictions on electronic devices. Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) has said it expects the ban to be lifted on flights from Jeddah and Riyadh by July 19. Royal Air Maroc also believes it can have the ban lifted for flights out of Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport by July 19, a senior official from the state-owned airline told Reuters. Other airlines affected by the ban include Royal Jordanian, Kuwait Airways and EgyptAir. – Reuters

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