DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 6, (Agencies): Qatar Airways joined two other major long-haul Gulf carriers on Thursday in getting off a US ban on laptops and large electronics in airplane cabins, despite facing logistical challenges amid the country’s diplomatic dispute with several Arab nations.
Doha-based Qatar Airways, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, Dubai-based Emirates and Istanbul-based Turkish Airlines all have put security procedures in place to satisfy American authorities. US officials instituted the ban in March across 10 Middle East cities over concerns Islamic State fighters and other extremists could hide bombs inside of laptops.
Qatar Airways said that with “immediate effect, all personal electronic devices can be carried on board all departures from Hamad International Airport to destinations in the United States.” Hamad in Doha is the hub of Qatar Airways. “Safety and security are always our highest priority,”
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker said in a statement. “They are expressed throughout all of our corporate values and must never be compromised.” The airline did not respond to questions about its new procedures. Michael England, a spokesman for the US Transportation Security Administration, said Qatar Airways had been removed from the ban list, but declined to elaborate on what it did to satisfy American concerns.
The US laptop ban still applies to nonstop US-bound flights from six airports in Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City; Cairo; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Casablanca, Morocco. Saudi Arabian Airlines has said it hopes to be off the ban list “on or before July 19.” While Gulf airlines have not commented on security procedures, Turkish officials say they use CT scanners to take cross-section images of electronics just before passengers board airplanes heading to the US Istanbul airport now also restricts US-bound flights to two departure gates, apparently for better security.
Etihad, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, already has a US Customs and Border Protection facility at its Abu Dhabi hub that allows passengers to clear screening they’d otherwise have to go through when landing in America.