UK Joins US Ban on Large
Electronic Carry-ons on Some Flights
March 22, 2017
Britain said Tuesday that it would ban passengers from carrying laptops
and other large electronic devices on flights into the country from six
Middle Eastern nations, following a similar measure announced by the
The new British directive will block carry-on electronics larger than 16
centimeters in length, 9.3 centimeters in width and with a depth of over
1.5 centimeters on direct flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt,
Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
"Direct flights to the UK from these destinations continue to operate to
the UK subject to these new measures being in place," a spokesman for
Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters. "We think these steps are
necessary and proportionate to allow passengers to travel safely."
Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Transportation Safety Agency issued a similar
ban on passengers flying directly to the United States from 10 Middle
The ban is not in response to some specific threat, the agency said in a
statement, but rather due to “evaluated intelligence” that shows
terrorist groups’ continued interest in targeting commercial flights.
The directive will require passengers to store electronic devices larger
than a cellphone in checked baggage. The TSA said it chose not to
include cellphones due to logistical reasons.
The TSA said it chose the airports “based on the current threat picture”
and after consultation with intelligence officials, though more airports
could be added in the future.
“As threats change, so too will TSA’s security requirements,” the agency
The airports affected by the U.S. ban are: Queen Alia International
Airport, Cairo International Airport, Ataturk International Airport,
King Abdul-Aziz International Airport, King Khalid International
Airport, Kuwait International Airport, Mohammed V Airport, Hamad
International Airport, Dubai International Airport, and Abu Dhabi
“Our information indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an
attack against the aviation sector are intensifying given that aviation
attacks provide an opportunity to cause mass casualties and inflict
significant economic damage, as well as generate overwhelming media
coverage,” the TSA statement said.
Airlines were notified of the increased security measures Tuesday and
have until Friday to comply. No end date was included in the order,
meaning it will extend indefinitely.
Several British airlines will be impacted by the British ban — including
British Airways and low-cost carrier Easyjet as well as package-vacation
carriers Thomas Cook and Thomson. The British ban affects in-bound
flights from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
It is unclear why the U.S. and British bans do not exactly match when it
comes to the airports and countries included.
No U.S. airline is impacted by the U.S. electronics ban — none fly
direct to any of the countries listed by the Department of Homeland
Security, which warns militants are seeking "innovative methods" to
bring down jets amid concerns that bombs will be hidden in laptops.
A U.S. intelligence official dismissed claims by some security experts
that the ban is as much politics-led as security-informed. He told VOA:
“The ban is reflective of how sophisticated al-Qaida is becoming in the
next generation of devices their bomb-makers are trying to develop.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have long been focused on militants in the
Middle East exploring a new generation of non-metallic explosives
unlikely to be detected by current airport security equipment.
In 2014 U.S. intelligence officials were alarmed by what they said was a
teaming up of veteran jihadists in Syria with bomb-makers and terror
planners from al Qaida’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),
which is active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. AQAP has been the most
persistent al Qaeda affiliate in efforts to bomb U.S.-bound jets.
The group was behind the attempted Christmas Day bombing in 2009 of
Northwest Airlines flight 253 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who bungled
the detonation of explosives sewn into his underwear. And it claimed
responsibility for a 2010 cargo plane bomb plot foiled by British
Qaida isn't the only group that’s prompting concern. Last year the
Somalian insurgent group al-Shabab smuggled an explosive-filled laptop
on a flight out of Mogadishu, blowing a hole in the side of the plane.
The aircraft was still low enough that the pilot was able to land the
Meanwhile. Turkey said Tuesday it would ask the U.S. to reverse the ban,
which affects travelers departing for the U.S. from Istanbul’s Ataturk
Turkish Transportation Minister Ahmet Arslan told reporters Turkey
already takes “all kinds of security measures” at its airports and said
it was wrong to group the Turkish airport with those in “less
“We particularly emphasize how this will not benefit the passenger and
that reverse steps or a softening should be adopted,” he said.