U.S. Ends Laptop Ban with Riyadh Exemption

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently lifted its ban on large electronic devices in the cabins of airliners arriving in the U.S. from Riyadh, effectively ending a program begun some four months ago to limit personal electronics larger than a cell phone on flights originating from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports. Saudi Arabian Airlines stood as the last carrier affected by the ban after the DHS lifted the restrictions on flights out of Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE, Hamad International Airport in Doha, Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Cairo International Airport, Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Kuwait International Airport, and Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca. 

The exemptions follow the DHS’s institution of “enhanced” security protocols including increased scrutiny of laptop computers at screening points at some 280 airports in 105 countries in lieu of a planned expansion of the ban to flights originating in Europe. The measures instituted by the U.S. on June 28 included enhancing overall passenger screening, the establishment of more preclearance locations, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas, and the expansion of canine screening. The DHS said it would work with so-called stakeholders to ensure the full implementation of the measures “over the next several weeks and months.” Airlines and airports that fail to adopt the new requirements within certain time frames run the risk of the DHS imposing further unnamed security restrictions, said the agency.

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The UK, meanwhile, continues to ban laptops and other larger devices in the cabins of airplanes originating from a list of Middle Eastern and North African countries. The UK directive bans electronic devices larger than a cell phone and applies to airplanes departing from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt. It affects 14 airlines, including six based in the UK.