The U.S. has now lifted entirely a controversial ban on laptops in hand luggage for passengers flying to the country from the Middle East or via certain Middle Eastern airlines, with the Department of Homeland Security professing itself satisfied with “enhanced security measures in place”.
It had already lifted the ban for three major airlines, earlier this month. But late yesterday an official tweeted that all restrictions had been lifted for remaining airlines and airports.
The laptop ban, which also barred other large electronic devices such as tablets and e-readers from hand luggage, was initiated in March. It immediately covered all flights to U.S. destinations from 10 airports in the Middle East, including major travel hubs such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, as well as nine airlines.
The ban was said to have been introduced to increase national security, based on evaluated intelligence that indicated terrorist organizations were looking to hide explosives in consumer electronics and smuggle them onto passenger planes.
However there were questions over the timing of the ban; the choice of affected airports and airlines; and even some suggestions the motive might be economic protectionism, given US airlines were not affected by a ban that created a lot of extra hassle for travelers and especially traveling business people (so might well have been bad for the business of the affected airlines).
Add to that, the sight of U.S. President Donald Trump following up an earlier highly controversial executive order, which had sought to place restrictions on travel to the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries, with a second prohibitive measure targeting companies from the region led some to suggest the ban was motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice.
That said, the UK also initiated a laptop ban in March, following the US’ lead — albeit, targeting a slightly different list of airlines operating direct flights into the country from the Middle East and North Africa.
We’ve confirmed with the UK’s Department for Transport that its laptop ban remains.
“To be clear, the restrictions introduced by the UK government in March currently remain in place,” a spokesman for the Department for Transport told us.
A Turkish news agency, citing diplomatic sources, has reported that the UK’s ban will soon be lifted for direct flights from Turkey. However the spokesman declined to comment on “rumor and speculation”.