Passengers brace as US #ElectronicsBan could extend to flights from UK and Europe

2017-05-03 11:30 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - The initial #ElectronicsBan for travellers between 10 airport in eight predominantly Muslim countries could possibly be extended to connecting flights within Europe and the UK, according to a number of reports.

The US and UK ban which came into effect on 24 March and prohibits all electronic devices larger than a smartphone to be kept in the aircraft cabin - specifically for travel to the UK and US via Cairo in Egypt, Amman in Jordan, Kuwait City in Kuwait, Casablanca in Morocco, Doha in Qatar, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Istanbul in Turkey, Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (The UK ban does not include Dubai). 

SEE: #ElectronicsBan: How are SA travellers affected?

Now it seems the UK might be getting some of their own medicine as The Guardian cites 'Whitehall sources' as saying that the Trump administration is considering barring passengers flying to the US from UK airports from taking laptops into the cabins. "Although it was not certain that the ban would be extended to the UK, the US was considering doing so," The Guardian's sources say. "British officials understand that their US counterparts are looking at extending the ban." 

SEE: US issues new terror alert for Europe

The New York Times has also reported that Europe, which was recently slapped with a US summer travel warning, could also be included in the list subject to the electronic devices travel ban. The report quotes David Lapan, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, who states while the agency had not decided whether to extend the ban, it would "likely expand the restrictions". 

Officials did not say when a new ban might be imposed but that the particular problem forcing the extension is for "passengers connecting in Europe from flights originating in the Middle East and Africa".

The US Embassy in South Africa however, says it has not received an official announcement that the ban has been extended as yet. 

The ban has been a headache for major carriers like Emirates, who has since slashed 20% of US flights due to the red tape - seen in both the electronics ban as well as the controversial Muslim travel ban.

SEE: Emirates introduces new laptop handling service for US flights

Following numerous queries, German national carrier, Lufthansa has since issued a statement saying, "Lufthansa is not aware of any additional security measures for Lufthansa Group-US bound flights or enhancements of the device ban by the US authorities by now.

"Therefore, existing security procedures for Lufthansa Group-US flights remain unchanged for the time being,"a spokesperson for the airlines says, "Passengers and airlines are obliged to comply with the applicable security regulations. Since the first ban of electronic devices larger than a smartphone applied by the TSA (US Transportation Security Administration) on flights from destinations in Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Lufthansa has internally evaluated different scenarios for possible enhancements of the ban.”

In addition to this, the restriction of electronic devices on flights from eight mostly Muslim countries - Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - have forced the world's largest global airlines to adjust protocol to accommodate travellers. 

READ: IATA tackles Electronics Ban

An extension of the ban would most-likely affect 14 other international airline carriers, over and above the national carries of the eight countries on the official US ban list.  Meanwhile, the head of the International Air Transport Association says it's difficult to understand how banning electronic devices in carry-on baggage will improve flight security. 

Nicholas Weaver, researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees.

Speaking to The Guardian when the ban was first implemented, he said that "it doesn’t match a conventional threat model. If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold."

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