Britain has banned large electronic devices on flights from a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon. The decision is based on intelligence suggesting terror groups could blow up commercial airliners with explosives hidden in consumer items. The decision was made following a meeting between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and aviation security experts. It would affect major airlines providing flights from the affected countries. An estimated 150,000 passengers per month could be affected by this decision. According to security measures, the decision follows the receipt of very specific intelligence reports – stressing that the rule change is entirely intelligence-led. This follows a similar measure the United States introduce yesterday and officials said they have been in “close touch” with the US during the decision to implement the ban. They insisted that the rationale behind the changes shouldn’t be confused with the travel restrictions recently introduced by Donald Trump in the United States.
Under the UK’s measure, all direct flights from the following countries will be affected:
Passengers boarding flights to the UK from the countries above will not be allowed to take any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a “normal sized mobile or smartphone” into the cabin of the plane.
Any of those devices will need to be placed into hold luggage and checked-in before going through central security. Devices measuring more than 16cm in length, 9.3cm in width, or 1.5cm depth will be banned from the cabin. They said the measure was effective immediately, but would not give details as to why the decision was taken now.
The US electronics measure, announced late on Monday, affected nine airlines from countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Jordan. The airlines involved were Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.
If the airlines don’t comply with the order within the 96 hour time frame, a senior U.S. official said “we will work with the FAA to pull their certificate and they will not be allowed to fly to the United States.” Security officials refused to discuss whether any specific terrorist plot had been detected. There was, however, an attempt to bring down an airliner in Somalia by the Islamist al-Shabaab group using a laptop bomb and a number of airports now require that passengers switch on laptops they are carrying during security checks.
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