Thousands of travelers were forced to put iPads, laptops and tablets into their checked luggage on Saturday as Britain’s ban on electronics on flights from six predominantly Muslim countries came into effect.
The new policy - introduced in response to intelligence that al-Qaeda is trying to plant explosives inside electronic devices - was met with frustration from business travellers and passengers facing long flights without entertainment but appeared to roll out smoothly.
The Telegraph tested the ban by trying to bring a tablet device on a flight to the UK from Turkey but found that the new policy was being vigorously enforced and that Turkish security staff quickly discovered the device.
As well as Turkey, the British ban covers airports in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia. The US ban, which also came into force on Saturday, extends to Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE.
British holidaymakers flying on the low-cost Pegasus Airline from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport to Stansted on Saturday morning were among the first to face the ban, which prohibits any electronics larger than a mobile from being brought in hand luggage.
“It’s ludicrous, it’s like the random rubbish you get from Trump stopping people from certain countries coming into America,” said Malcolm Saunders, a 58-year-old utilities consultant, who was forced to put several iPads into his checked luggage.
“They don’t care if holidaymakers have a long flight and don’t have anything to do and they don’t care about people from the Middle East. But they wouldn’t do it on European flights because business people would be up in arms.”
Diane Hardy, who works in property management, said she was worried that the expensive cameras and tablets she put in the hold would be stolen or broken during the flight. “I have all my stuff in the hold and I’m really on edge about it getting smashed. I’ve seen how bags are handled and they are just hurled on the tarmac,” she said.
Several passengers said they were confused why the electronics were banned in the cabin but still allowed in the hold. “Can’t a bomb do as much damage down there?” said one.
Others said the ban was a small price to pay if helped keep airliners safe. “It’s a bit of a nuisance but if that’s what it takes to keep us safe then it’s no problem,” said Sue Boom, a retired teacher.
Emirates and Turkish Airlines tried to ease the impact of the ban by allowing passengers to keep their electronics until the boarding gate, where they handed them over and airline staff stored them in the hold.
The Telegraph faced three security checks at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport: one at the airport entrance; one after check in; and another at the gate itself. Security staff located a small Lenovo tablet in our hand luggage and checked it into the hold.
Turkey has angrily protested being included on the US and UK ban list arguing that its airports have sophisticated security systems. "We particularly emphasise how this will not benefit the passenger and that reverse steps or a softening should be adopted,” said transport minister Ahmet Arslan.
Some of the worst disruption is likely to be felt at Dubai, the world’s busiest airport for international travel and the home base of Emirates, making it a hub for business travelers flying to the US from across the Middle East and Asia.
Emirates, which runs 18 flights to the US each day, called the American ban “disruptive and operationally challenging”. Airline analysts said it might help boost European airports, which could entice business travelers from across the world with the promise that they would be able to keep their devices while making the long flight to the US.
France and Canada are considering following the US and UK lead and implementing their own bans.
The UN’s aviation agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, said it was for each country to strike its own balance between security and passenger freedom. But it warned that storing electronics in the hold might make it more difficult to deal with fires that sometimes result from lithium batteries exploding.
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