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The Electronics ban on flights to the US is officially history—for now. Saudia announced on Twitter it has had its ban lifted by US authorities. Shortly afterwards, Saudia confirmed in a press release that “King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah and King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Riyadh have completed inspection and clearance has been granted by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to permit portable electronic devices (PEDs) on board flights to the United States.”
The ban, which came into force in March 2017, affected 8 airlines flying from 10 different airports in 8 countries; it applied to the following airports:
- Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) – Jordan
- Cairo International Airport (CAI) – Egypt
- Ataturk International Airport (IST) – Turkey
- King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED) – Saudi Arabia
- King Khalid International Airport (RUH) – Saudi Arabia
- Kuwait International Airport (KWI) – Kuwait
- Mohammed V Airport (CMN) – Morocco
- Hamad International Airport (DOH) – Qatar
- Dubai International Airport (DXB) – UAE
- Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) – UAE
The initial problem with the ban was that there was no way around it, there were no specific measures the affected airlines or countries could take to get the ban lifted. This led to some innovative customer focused initiative by the airlines to reduce the effects of the ban. Qatar and Etihad started lending customer tablets, while Emirates introduced gate checking for devices and then provided customers tablets for the duration of the trip.
At that point, the situation seemed bleak with no possibility of winning a reprieve from the ban. Finally, in early July 2017, the Department of Homeland Security released new requirements for security procedures on flights to the US. The new guidelines affect more than 2,100 flights per day heading to the US, and countries and airlines had 120 days to implement the new procedures.
Now that airlines had a solution that they could implement, the race was on to have the ban lifted; the first was Etihad in Abu Dhabi, which is no surprise since it has a CBP Pre-clearance facility. Following that came Emirates and Turkish Airlines. After this, the bans were being lifted thick and fast with airlines announcing an almost daily reprieve from the ban. Qatar was swiftly followed by Royal Jordanian and Kuwait. Then came Egyptair and Royal Air Maroc, and finally at the tail-end, Saudia.
Is The Ban Totally Over?
Simply put yes and no. It is over for flights to the US, however, the UK which brought in a similar ban at the same time has not lifted any of its restrictions so far. Even though the ban affects slightly different countries, there is some overlap with the US ban. Currently, the UK ban applies to flights from the following countries:
- Saudi Arabia
So far there is no news about the UK lifting its ban anytime soon.
Another possible problem lying ahead is the fact that the ban seems to have been lifted in response to the new security procedures. Considering how many airports and countries these procedures affect, it is highly possible that at the end of the 120-day implementation period, there will be airports/countries failing an inspection, which will have a ban imposed on them.
It is great news that this ban is now history, hopefully, it will remain so in the long run since it caused some serious transatlantic friction, with European regulators having some serious concerns about the fire risk caused by having so many lithium ion batteries in aircraft cargo holds. For now, it seems there is a system that if followed, countries can escape the ban. Only time will tell if another ban is around the corner due to increased threats or other security considerations!
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