If you’re planning on flying to the US on a Middle Eastern airline, bad news: electronic devices may be banned in carry-on luggage, depending on the airline. And the US government is taking its time confirming what their policy actually is.
Shortly after noon today, Royal Jordanian airlines announced via Twitter that, as of March 21, passengers flying on their airline to or from the US would not be allowed to take electronics into the cabin, except for phones and medical devices. Other electronics, like laptops or tablets, would have to be placed in checked baggage.
What followed was an afternoon of largely baffled coverage of the tweet, with many questions and few answers. BuzzFeed reporters who contacted Emirates and Qatar Airways at JFK Airport found agents there were unaware of the rules. Then, sometime this afternoon, Royal Jordanian deleted that tweet, further adding to the confusion.
Additionally, the Transportation Safety Administration would not clarify what the fuck is going on, telling Gizmodo and several other outlets that it has “no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.”
But at least two outlets have now reported that the ban is real, indicating that now would be an appropriate time for an update. The AP reported that the ban has been under consideration for weeks, and that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly “phoned lawmakers over the weekend to brief them on aviation security issues that have prompted the impending electronics ban.” According to CNN, an unnamed US official said the ban is for a “limited duration” and applies to over a dozen Middle Eastern and African airlines besides Royal Jordanian.
The TSA bans spare or uninstalled lithium batteries from checked baggage, but not installed batteries, so passengers should be clear to check laptops and other electronic devices. Unfortunately, as aviation security expert Jeffrey Price told the AP, “some laptops have batteries that can catch fire and it’s easier to detect it when it’s in the cabin rather than burning in the hold.” Which sounds fine.
Just another careful, well-executed policy implementation involving airports and the Middle East from the Trump administration.