Flight Restrictions Tightened

The US and subsequently the UK Governments have introduced additional airline security measures on flights originating in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. Britain’s Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, said in a written statement to the House of Parliament on March 21 he was revising aviation security measures for selected inbound flights to the UK.

“In conjunction with our international partners and the aviation industry, the UK Government keeps aviation security under constant review.  The UK has some of the most robust security measures in the world and we will not hesitate to put in place measures we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate,” he said.

Under the new restrictions electronic devices such as mobile telephones, laptops and tablets larger than 6.3in (16cm) x 3.7in (9.3cm) x 0.6in (1.5cm) will not be allowed in the cabin on flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Tunisia.  Instead these items must be packed in travellers’ hold luggage.  Passengers have raised concerns that these items could be stolen or damaged.

The ban follows an earlier directive by the Trump Administration to prohibit electronic devices from a passenger’s carry-on luggage on nonstop flights to the US from eight nations.  The indefinite US ban covers ten airports and nine airlines with restrictions applying to travellers from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Although no specific reason was given for the new ban initially, Reuters quoted US officials as saying it relates to a terror threat uncovered several weeks ago, during a US Navy SEAL raid on a suspected al-Qaeda base in Yemen.  Subsequently, US Department of Homeland Security said the decision was based on this information as well the downing of a MetroJet aircraft over Egypt on October 31, 2015 and the attempt to destroy a Somali-owned Daallo Airlines Airbus A321 on February 2, 2016, after which investigations showed explosives had been smuggled aboard both aircraft.  “We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent security as they continue to target aviation interests,” US officials said in a statement.