The US government’s laptop ban for travelers on Middle Eastern airlines has been lifted, with the rules squashed for the last airline to be impacted. The Department of Homeland Security had begun the restrictions back in March, with nine predominantly Middle Eastern airlines impacted. Passengers were unable to bring large electronic items, including laptops, into the cabin as hand luggage. Instead, they needed to be stowed in checked luggage in the hold.
At the time, the reasons behind the ban were unclear. Subsequent reports, however, suggested that an iPad bomb threat had been the cause. While there were fears that the electronics ban could be escalated, and indeed impact more countries and carriers, in the end the security services opted to ramp up security requirements for all airlines.
As each came in line, they’ve been progressively exempted from the original laptop ban. That started with nonstop flights from Abu Dhabi at the start of July, and then spread to encompass travel from Istanbul and Dubai a few days later.
Now, Reuters reports, the last airline to be affected has been cleared. Passengers headed to the US on Saudi Arabian Airlines flights can now bring their large electronics into the cabin – assuming, of course, that they’re compliant with the airline’s own regulations – with a spokesperson from the TSA saying that the main hub in Jeddah at King Abdulaziz International Airport had been deemed compliant today. A check of Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport to ensure the same there will be carried out later this week.
The exact nature of the enhanced security checks has, unsurprisingly, not been detailed. According to the Department of Homeland Security, they include enhancing overall passenger screening in addition to heightened screening of personal electronic devices. There’ll also be an increase of security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas. New use of advanced technology, an expansion of canine screening, and the establishment of additional preclearance locations are also on the agenda.
The policies will affect approximately 280 airports spread across 105 countries, where they act as the final point of departure for flights to the US. 180 airlines will be impacted, collectively operating an average of 2,100 daily flights and on average 325,000 passengers every day.