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Government bans electronics bigger than phones on flights

Flying can be so expensive. After paying for tickets, checked bags, and snacks on board, the last thing you want to purchase is in-flight entertainment. When you travel with your tablet or laptop, you cut that cost by bringing your own entertainment with you.

Unfortunately for some foreign travelers, they will no longer have the option to bring these devices in their carry-on luggage. Starting this morning, the U.S. government has banned passengers in certain countries from bringing laptops, tablets, cameras, and other electronics into the cabin. Cellphones and medical devices will still be allowed.

The ban affects non-stop flights from eight countries in the Middle East and northern Africa. U.S. government officials said this ban is the result of potential and ongoing threats from flights from these countries. They are not saying when they learned of these threats or which terrorist groups are behind them.

The potential threats paired with the Daallo Airlines Flight 159 incident may be the cause for the ban on larger electronics. About a year ago, a terrorist on a Daallo Airlines flight traveling from one airport in Somali to another detonated a bomb on board. It’s believed that a laptop rigged with a timer was supposed to set the bomb off mid-flight. However, since the flight was delayed, the bomb went off before the plane reached cruising altitude. Only the suicide bomber died.

Here’s a list of the airlines affected by the ban:

  • Egyptair
  • Emirates Air
  • Etihad Airways  
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian 
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines

Here’s a list of the airports affected by the ban:

  • Abu Dhabi International in Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Ataturk International in Istanbul, Turkey 
  • Cairo International in Cairo, Egypt
  • Dubai International in Dubai, UAE
  • Hamad International in Doha, Qatar 
  • King Abdulaziz International in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 
  • King Khalid International in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait International in Kuwait City, Kuwait
  • Mohammed V. International in Casablanca, Morocco
  • Queen Alia International in Amman, Jordan

If these airports and airlines do not follow the new rules then they won’t be permitted to fly to the United States. Other than banning those who don’t adhere to the rules, it’s not clear how this will be enforced. The TSA only operates in the United States so they would only be able to screen carry-on bags once they’ve reached U.S. soil. If laptops are being rigged to set bombs off mid-flight then by the time the bags reach the TSA it would be too late.

And even if these airports and airlines do comply, there’s still room for tragedy. If the rigged laptops are stowed away, then they just explode in storage instead of the cabin. That may give the other passengers a better chance of survival if the explosion isn’t too big.

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