U.S. Prohibits Electronics in Cabin on Flights from Eight Countries

Maybe by the time you read this, the whole thing will have blown over, but according to reports in The New York Times and other publications, the US has decreed that passengers on Middle Eastern and North African airlines flying to the US may not bring any electronic device larger than a mobile phone into the cabin. Instead these items must be placed in checked bags.

The ban affects flights departing from Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Obviously, such a ban raises many questions. Why only foreign airlines? Does this imply that the US doesn't have faith in the security measures of these foreign airlines? If so, how long has this discomfort been an issue?

And what exactly would prevent any evil-doer from just flying on airlines not subject to the ban?

Is this ban one-way or will flights departing from the US face similar restrictions?

Is this a security issue? One would think so, since no other explanation readily comes to mind.

What about restricting lithium batteries in checked bags? Previously, this had been a safety concern, though the ban essentially encourages passengers to check devices running on lithium batteries.

Will these airlines cover damage and theft of valuable electronic items such as laptop computers from checked bags? Because, let's face it, baggage handlers have been known to pilfer from bags knowing they contain laptops, cameras, iPads, and other valuables. Better make sure you buy your airfare with a credit card that covers damage or loss to electronics in checked bags (some do) because airlines won't.

How will this affect airfare buying decisions? I can't imagine many travelers agreeing to check their laptops, either because they need them in flight or because they fear theft and damage. I certainly wouldn't take the chance. So consumers will book away from Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways and fly instead on US airlines. This surely won't make those foreign airlines happy.

Thoughts or concerns on the electronics ban? Chime in and discuss on Twitter with @airfarewatchdog!