Airlines impacted by Britain’s cabin ban on electronic devices on flights from some Middle East and North Africa countries have until Saturday to implement the measure, officials said Wednesday.
But passengers “should go to the airport with the expectation that the measures are already in effect”, a transport ministry spokeswoman said.
On Friday, the US department of homeland security banned “all personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone” from the carry on bags (bags carried on board by the flyer) of passengers who board direct flights to the US from the airports in Amman (Jordan), Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), Jeddah and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait, Doha (Qatar), Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Airlines were notified by the US government at 3am EDT (12.30pm IST, Friday) about the ban and have been given 96 hours within which to comply.
So a passenger booked on a Mumbai-Dubai-Dallas flight will have to check in the laptop at Mumbai itself. The new security measures don’t apply to passengers booked on Air India. But those booked on Jet Airways will need to check if their flights will transit through any of the above listed airports.
Apart from passengers from the countries that are on the list, it will be those from India who would be the most hit as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are popular transit halts for passengers from India flying to the US.
The US National Travel and Tourism office data on international travellers to the US and the countries they come from has Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, China and European nations in the top ten list. Passengers from none of these countries would generally transit through any of the 10 listed airports to reach the US. But that’s not the case with India, which stands at the 11th position on the list. According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), in the fiscal year 2016, of the 2.69 million passengers who flew from India to the US, 1.3 million flew on airlines like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar that transit through airports like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Anil Punjabi, president of Travel Agents’ Federation of India, said: “The restriction, first by the US and then by the UK, has scared travellers. They feel that if intelligence agencies believe that terror outfits may explode a bomb on a plane that originates from the Gulf, they should avoid it altogether. Even elderly people travelling to their children living abroad want to avoid the flights. Though most of them don’t carry the restricted items, there is fear of delay at airports in the Gulf.”
Kapil Kaul of CAPA said that he sees the new security measures as a “serious passenger inconvenience and nothing more”. He added that it might result in some business class traffic moving to carriers that are not affected but given the very high demand and high passenger load factors there won’t be any significant movement. “It’s poorly executed and communicated but we expect it to be a short term measure,” Kaul added.