EgyptAir the latest airline to gain exemption from US electronics ban

Like its Abu Dhabi, Qatari, and Turkish counterparts, the Egyptian airline has welcomed the exemption to the US electronics ban.
Written by Tas Bindi, Contributor

From Wednesday, flights from Cairo to New York will be exempt from the three-month-old US ban on large electronic devices, EgyptAir chairman Safwat Musallam announced on Tuesday.

EgyptAir is the only airline in the country that flies to the US, operating flights between Cairo and New York.

"The ban on taking laptops and other electronic devices aboard aircraft cabins on EgyptAir flights to New York will be lifted as of tomorrow and for a year or until another emergency amendment is introduced," Musallam said in a statement.

The US government enforced the electronics ban in March, impacting passengers on incoming flights from majority-Muslim nations in the Middle East and North Africa including Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Under the new regulations, passengers flying from certain airports are required to pack any electronic devices with dimensions larger than 16cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm into checked luggage, with smartphones and medical equipment exempt from the ban.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said the exemption came as a result of close cooperation between Cairo International Airport and EgyptAir employees, which put US authorities at ease.

Etihad had similarly announced last week that the US decision to lift the electronics ban on Etihad flights from Abu Dhabi to American airports would allow passengers to have devices such as laptops and tablets as carry-on items "after going through enhanced inspection procedures."

Qatar Airlines and Turkish Airlines also announced last week that their flights to the US are exempt from the ban after meeting all the requirements of the US Department of Homeland Security's new security guidelines announced at the end of June.

US Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said at the time that the new measures to screen flights coming into the US is an attempt to avoid further expanding the electronics ban.

Kelly said that airlines will be required to introduce enhanced screening of personal electronic devices, passengers, and test for explosives -- potentially through more swabbing and clothing checks -- for roughly 2,000 commercial flights arriving into the US on a daily basis from 280 airports in 105 countries.

More canine searches and areas for interviews and secondary screening will also be required.

The ban in March was prompted by reports that militant groups are looking to smuggle explosives inside electronic devices. It was later confirmed that the government was not acting in response to a new threat, but an ongoing one, with a senior US administration officials saying that "evaluated intelligence" pointed to terrorists "aggressively pursuing" ways to carry out attacks, such as hiding explosives in electronic devices.

The ban followed two failed executive actions by US President Donald Trump attempting to prohibit immigrants entering the US from seven majority-Muslim nations. Both attempts to implement the orders were later shut down for being "unconstitutional" by the lower courts.

However, the US Supreme Court recently temporarily approved a limited version [PDF] of Trump's travel ban, saying that it would hear arguments from Trump's legal counsel when justices return for their next term in October.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court said it would grant parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put the March 6 executive order into effect immediately.

The Supreme Court's ruling exempts people if they can prove a "bona fide relationship" with a US person or entity including parent, spouse, child, sibling, adult son, adult daughter, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law. Under State Department guidelines, visa applicants from six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen -- for 90 days thereafter need to show close family or business ties to the United States.

UK authorities similarly imposed an electronics ban on flights from countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia in March, saying the measures were "necessary, effective, and proportionate" but did not explain why.

In May, the Australian federal government also announced that it was considering implementing an electronics ban in response to terrorism threats, but is yet to do so.

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