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US ends laptop ban on Middle Eastern airlines

The United States Transportation Security Administration announced that it was rescinding a ban on Saudi Arabian Airlines passengers carrying large personal electronic devices onboard US-bound flights.

The carrier was the last airline that was under the controversial restriction that was mandated by the US back in March, which kept passengers from carrying laptops and other large electronic devices onto cabins on nine airlines, most of which were Middle Eastern carriers, to alleviate concerns of the potential threat of concealed explosives.

Just last month, U.S. officials declared new security measures for all airlines to abide by as opposed to an expansion of the laptop ban and have been dropping the restrictions from airlines as they heightened security.

TSA spokesman James Gregory said the U.S. government had lifted the restrictions at Saudi Arabian Airlines’ main hub in Jeddah at King Abdulaziz International Airport on Monday. U.S. government officials will take a look at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport “later this week to confirm compliance there as well,” the spokesman added.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also issued an updated directive to airlines around the world in response to requests that it elucidate aviation security measures that are marked to begin taking effect later this week.

An airline official who had knowledge on the matter said the directive included technical adjustments and offered airlines more flexibility and added time to acquire explosive trace detection gear.

DHS has made clear that it could impose new restrictions on laptops if airlines do not make upgrade their security.

European and U.S. officials have said that airlines have until July 19, to put in place better explosive trace detection screening and other measures and 120 days to fulfill other security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers.

The new requirements include enhanced passenger screening at foreign airports, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas and expanded canine screening.

A number of airline groups, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), condemned the new requirements in a July 14 letter to U.S. officials saying it is a “fundamental shift away from the risk-based approach” and said it would be “extremely difficult” to “meet the deadlines because of the lack of availability of screening equipment technology and resources.”

TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein defended the new security requirements unveiled in June that were geared at avoiding expansion of the laptop ban. She said the agency has been collaborating with airlines for months to keep them abreast on the developments.

“As we look to stay ahead of the evolving threats, we’ll be working with global aviation stakeholders to expand security measures even further”, she said in an email, adding the government has “seen a web of threats to commercial aviation.”

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-airlines-electronics-idUSKBN1A21XR

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