Onboard electronics ban ‘could last months’

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Middle East carriers have moved quickly to meet the rules banning electronics items being brought onboard as carry-on items on flights to the US and the UK. Gogo's new in-flight Wi-Fi can reach speeds of 100 mbps

The US has introduced the policy for direct inbound flights from nine Middle East and North African countries.

The UK has banned the devices on flights departing from six countries in the region: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Despite there being no specific threat, officials have argued militants may try to hide bombs in devices, including laptops and iPads. The ban does not apply to mobile phones.

Passengers are obliged to check in these devices for storage in the aircraft hold, despite the proven threat posed by lithium batteries at altitude in low-pressure environments.

Highlighting this risk, aviation safety authority ICAO released a statement saying it planned to work with “relevant safety and security authorities on the carriage of dangerous goods, including electronic devices containing lithium batteries in checked baggage, to support a safe, efficient and secure air transport system”.

“Finding an effective balance between safety and security approaches is always a priority in global aviation. While ICAO supports global standards to ensuring the facilitation of international mobility and connectivity, the extent to which the facilitation aspect is optimised is at the discretion of sovereign ICAO Member States. ICAO and its Member States will continue to review the evolving aviation security environment in the coming weeks.”

The warning came as industry analysts claimed the ban could go on for months.

James Wood from International SOS and Control Risks, said: “This restriction is likely to be in force for some time – months, rather than days or weeks.

“The specifics of the restrictions could evolve in the future, as they did following the 2006 transatlantic airliner plot, when initially all hand baggage, less essential items such as medication and baby food, was banned from cabins. In the nearer term, other countries are likely to announce their own steps. The UK and US have intelligence-sharing relationships with numerous countries: Canada has already announced it has received information from the US and is analysing it for potential action, and European governments are almost certainly undertaking a similar review.”

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