Etihad flights exempt from US electronics ban

Etihad, which operates 45 flights per week from Abu Dhabi airport to six US airports, will not be impacted by the US electronics ban.

Etihad flights from Abu Dhabi to the United States are exempt from the US ban on large electronic devices, the Abu Dhabi-based airline announced on Sunday night.

The US government introduced 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.

The US decision to lift the ban on large electronic devices on Etihad flights from Abu Dhabi to American airports "allows passengers to have all laptops, tablets, and other gadgets as carry-on items, after going through enhanced inspection procedures," Etihad said in a statement.

The Abu Dhabi airport is the only hub in the region with a US pre-clearance operations office where Etihad passengers go through United States Customs and Border Protection screening before boarding flights bound for the United States rather than after arrival.

The carrier operates 45 flights per week from Abu Dhabi airport to six US airports.

The news comes less than a week after US Homeland Security secretary John Kelly revealed new measures to screen flights coming into the US, in 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.

According to the US Homeland Security secretary, the introduction of stricter security measures will remove the need for the Trump administration to enforce the in-cabin electronics ban to more countries, but as threats are still lurking, something must be done.

The ban in March was prompted by reports that militant groups are looking to smuggle explosives inside electronic devices, though no clear details were provided to the public at the time of the announcement.

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 also 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 the next 90 days 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 that could potentially involve bombs hidden in large electronic devices.

With AAP