The laptop ban could soon be lifted from the four remaining foreign airports and Middle East airlines that have been affected by the United States-led mandate.
The Department of Homeland Security announced that if security measures are boosted at the said aforementioned locales in the coming days to weeks, the controversial ban would be lifted.
The ban started in March when the US banned electronic devices larger than a smartphone from the cabin on flights originating from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East.
Of the 10, four have remained with restrictions. The ban remains in place for Saudi Arabia’s two main international airports, in Riyadh and Jeddah, as well as Egypt’s Cairo International and Morocco’s Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport, an official from the DHS said.
Six countries across the Middle East have already been freed of the ban after considerably improving security protocols. They include Royal Jordanian Airways and Kuwait Airways. Restrictions on Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines were dropped last week.
The ban compels travelers to place all personal electronic devices larger than cellphones in luggage that would be stored in the aircraft’s baggage compartment. The ban was a result of intelligence gathered that Islamic State groups were fashioning an explosive device that would fit into personal electronics.
The agency will evaluate airlines from Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt in the next few weeks to determine if they have introduced security measures to allow the ban to be removed at four airports, DHS spokesman David Lapan said.
DHS also said on Tuesday it planned to review requests by three Middle Eastern airlines still under a laptop ban to have the restrictions lifted.
The agency will assess airlines from Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt in coming weeks to see if they have introduced security measures to allow the ban to be removed at four airports, DHS spokesman David Lapan said.
Saudi Arabian Airlines said it expected the ban to be lifted on flights from Jeddah and Riyadh by July 19, while Royal Air Maroc believed it could get off the ban for flights out of Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport by July 19.
State-owned EgyptAir, which has also been affected by the ban, said the restrictions would be lifted on Wednesday. Lapan said DHS would confirm the elimination of the measures for EgyptAir after they certified the airline’s security procedures.
Last month, DHS announced directives to 180 carriers all over the world flying into the United States asking for improvements in security procedures, especially physical and technological screening of baggage and electronics.
The directives included pressure to install explosive-detecting scanners within weeks, as well as adding more bomb-sniffing dogs.
“I am concerned that we are seeing renewed interest on the part of terrorist groups to go after the aviation sector — from bombing aircraft to attacking airports on the ground, as we saw in Brussels and Istanbul”, said DHS Secretary John Kelly.