The laptop ban, once the subject of so much rancor and debate, is fading fast and may disappear completely within a week.
The ban, initially covering nonstop flights by nine airlines to the U.S. from 10 Middle East airports, was imposed in March, presumably in response to intelligence suggesting that terrorists planned to hide explosives in the personal electronics devices of flyers traveling to the U.S.
Since then the list of banned airlines has been shrinking as the carriers improved their security-screening procedures and received approval from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow passengers to resume carrying onboard their personal electronics devices when flying nonstop to the U.S. from the carriers’ respective flight hubs.
Over the weekend, Royal Jordanian and Kuwait Airways became the fifth and sixth airlines to receive the DHS’s blessings to allow U.S.-bound travelers to fly with their laptops and other devices, following in the footsteps of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, Dubai-based Emirates, Doha-based Qatar, and Istanbul-based Turkish Airlines.
Then, on July 12, Egyptair announced that its nonstop flights from Cairo to the U.S. had been approved.
And today, July 13, Royal Air Maroc’s flights from Casablanca, Morocco, have been exempted from the ban as well.
The ban remains in place for nonstop flights to the U.S. from two airports: Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But although unconfirmed by U.S. security officials, Saudia, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, said it expects Jeddah and Riyadh to meet DHS screening standards and be excluded from the ban “on or before July 19.”
So by the end of next week, if not sooner, the ban on U.S. flights may be over. A ban on personal electronics on flights to the U.K. from several Middle East countries remains in effect.
The ban has been the object of considerable controversy, with critics lambasting the policy as neither necessary nor effective. In particular, it’s been pointed out that terrorists can easily avoid the ban by utilizing connecting flight to the U.S., rather than flying on the restricted nonstops.
With the affected airlines and airports rushing to upgrade their security screening to meet DHS requirements, the controversy and the criticism will soon be moot. Which means more comfort and convenience for flyers, if not more security.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.