Emi­rates, Turk­ish flights off U.S. lap­top ban list

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - JON GAM­BRELL In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Suzan Fraser of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The U.S. lap­top ban, first an­nounced in March as a se­cu­rity mea­sure, now ap­plies to non­stop U.S.-bound flights from the in­ter­na­tional air­ports in Am­man, Jor­dan; Kuwait City; Cairo; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia; Casablanca, Morocco; and Doha, Qatar.

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates — Emi­rates Air­line and Turk­ish Air­lines said Wed­nes­day that they have been ex­empted from a U.S. ban on lap­tops in air­plane cab­ins, join­ing Eti­had Air­ways in sat­is­fy­ing Amer­i­can se­cu­rity con­cerns that had cut into the long-haul car­ri­ers’ busi­ness.

It re­mains un­clear how the air­lines ad­dressed fears that the Is­lamic State or other mil­i­tant groups might smug­gle ex­plo­sives in elec­tronic de­vices. But in Turkey, au­thor­i­ties now use CT scan­ners to take cross-sec­tion images of pas­sen­gers’ elec­tron­ics just be­fore they board air­planes head­ing to the U.S.

Both air­lines alerted the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, which over­sees air­plane safety in the United States, that “they are ready to com­ply with the en­hanced se­cu­rity mea­sures,” said David La­pan, a Home­land Se­cu­rity spokesman in Wash­ing­ton. He de­clined to dis­cuss specifics.

“Pro­tect­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple and rais­ing the global base­line on avi­a­tion se­cu­rity re­mains the top pri­or­ity,” La­pan said. “We will con­tinue to closely ob­serve op­er­a­tions in these air­ports to en­sure these en­hanced mea­sures are im­ple­mented ef­fec­tively and to the re­quired lev­els.”

Emi­rates’ hub at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port has grown into the world’s busiest for in­ter­na­tional traf­fic.

On Wed­nes­day, Emi­rates said in a state­ment that it had worked to “im­ple­ment height­ened se­cu­rity mea­sures and pro­to­cols” to sat­isfy Amer­i­can re­quire­ments. It did not elab­o­rate, fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar prece­dent set by Abu Dhabi-based Eti­had, which Amer­i­can of­fi­cials cleared Sun­day.

“We would like to ex­press our grat­i­tude to the U.S. and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties for their sup­port and thank our cus­tomers for their un­der­stand­ing and pa­tience dur­ing the last few months when the ban was in place,” Emi­rates said.

Is­tan­bul-based Turk­ish Air­lines tweeted that pas­sen­gers aboard its U.S.-bound flights should “fas­ten your seat­belts and en­joy your own elec­tronic de­vices.” A state­ment from the air­line said it had taken more than 81,000 elec­tronic de­vices from pas­sen­gers to store them in spe­cially pro­tected bag­gage dur­ing the 102 days the ban was in place.

The U.S. lap­top ban, first an­nounced in March as a se­cu­rity mea­sure, now ap­plies to non­stop U.S.-bound flights from the in­ter­na­tional air­ports in Am­man, Jor­dan; Kuwait City; Cairo; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia; Casablanca, Morocco; and Doha, Qatar.

In May, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump shared highly clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence with se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cials vis­it­ing the White House about the Is­lamic State want­ing to use lap­tops to tar­get air­craft.

Qatar Air­ways, the last of the three ma­jor Persian Gulf long-haul car­ri­ers on the list, de­clined to an­swer ques­tions Wed­nes­day about the ban. That air­line al­ready has been blocked from much of the airspace of Qatar’s neigh­bors be­cause of an on­go­ing dis­pute be­tween Qatar and four Arab na­tions.

Speak­ing in Lon­don, Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Ab­dul­rah­man Al Thani said of­fi­cials from the U.S.’ Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion were “al­ready in Doha.”

“I think they ar­rived yes­ter­day,” Mo­hammed said. “This is an on­go­ing process, and I think ir­rel­e­vant to the en­tire” po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

Saudi Ara­bian Air­lines has said it hopes to be off the ban list “on or be­fore July 19.”

Turk­ish Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Veysi Kay­nak wel­comed the lift­ing of the ban at Is­tan­bul’s air­port, say­ing the re­stric­tions had tar­geted Mus­lim na­tions and amounted to a dis­crim­i­na­tion against them as po­ten­tial “crim­i­nals.”

“The coun­tries that were sub­jected to the ban were gen­er­ally Mus­lim coun­tries,” Kay­nak said. “It is a grave er­ror to re­gard the peo­ple of a cer­tain faith col­lec­tively as peo­ple with the po­ten­tial to com­mit crimes.”

Kay­nak said that along with the CT scan­ners, the Is­tan­bul air­port is now restrict­ing U.S.bound flights to two de­par­ture gates.

There is a prece­dent for con­cern over lap­tops be­ing used as bombs. So­ma­lia’s alQaida-linked al-Shabab said it planted a bomb in­side a lap­to­p­like de­vice that ex­ploded on a plane leav­ing Mo­gadishu in Fe­bru­ary 2016, killing only the bomber.

How­ever, the se­cu­rity con­cerns also come amid a wider dis­pute be­tween Gulf air­lines and Amer­i­can car­ri­ers, which ac­cuse the Mid­dle East air­lines of flood­ing the mar­ket with flights while re­ceiv­ing bil­lions of dol­lars of un­fair govern­ment sub­si­dies. The Gulf car­ri­ers all vig­or­ously deny that.

The lap­top ban, cou­pled with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s travel ban on six pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries, has hurt Mid­dle East­ern air­lines. Emi­rates, the re­gion’s big­gest, said it slashed 20 per­cent of its flights to Amer­ica in the wake of the re­stric­tions. The air­line said Wed­nes­day it now flies 103 flights a week to the U.S.

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