Abu Dhabi has become the first airport to lift the US electronics ban, it announced today.
Etihad, the UAE airline, announced that its hub airport had been cleared to lift the ban at by the US government after implementing extra security measures. It has taken place with immediate effect, after the Transport Security Administration (TSA) – part of the Department of Homeland Security – completed an “observation and verification session” this morning. Passengers were immediately allowed to take electronic devices onboard Etihad flights to the US.
The “laptop ban”, as it has become widely known, was imposed by the US government in March on the grounds of “innovative methods” being used by terrorists. Laptops, e-readers, tablets, DSLR cameras and other large electronic devices were banned on flights to the US from 10 airports, including Abu Dhabi.
Although sceptics mooted that it was a ploy to assist US carriers – none of which flew to the airports involved – the UK swiftly followed with a variation on the ban, prohibiting electronics on flights from six Muslim-majority countries. The UAE is not included in the UK ban.
It is not known whether the UK will follow suit in relaxing the ban in other countries if airports take Abu Dhabi’s lead and implement extra security measures.
Airlines have been scrambling to make the ban work logistically since it was imposed with little warning. Experts have also warned that the ban could cause a “catastrophic” fire if devices caught alight in the hold.
Last week, the TSA announced it was demandingextra screening requirements for electronics as a security measure at 280 airports around the world, impacting 2,000 flights a day. It was said to be a bid to ensure the electronics ban was not expanded. Abu Dhabi is the first airport to meet with its approval.