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Laptop Ban Lifted for Middle East Flights to U.S.

That laptop ban that was once the subject of so much rancor and debate? Gone, but not soon to be forgotten.

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.

In early July, 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. The next day, Royal Air Maroc’s flights from Casablanca, Morocco, were exempted from the ban as well.

That left only Saudia’s nonstop flights to the U.S. from two airports, Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And those restrictions were lifted yesterday.

According to a Tweet by a DHS representative: “With enhanced security measures in place, all restrictions on large PEDs (personal electronic devices) announced in March for 10 airports/9 airlines have been lifted.”

The ban was 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 flights to the U.S., rather than flying on the restricted nonstops.

With the ban lifted, flyers from the affected airports can again look forward to the comfort and convenience of traveling with their laptops and other electronic devices.

Reader Reality Check

Did the ban make you feel safer?

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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.

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