March 25, 2017 06:54 PM NPT
DUBAI, 25 March: Dubai International Airport and its flag carrier Emirates began implementing a ban on laptops and tablets on direct flights to the US Saturday, on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.
“1.1 million people are expected to pass through the busiest international airport as the city marks UAE spring break, Dubai Airports’,” Senior Vice President for Communications Anita Mehra said.
An estimated 260,000 travellers were expected to pass through each day from Friday through Monday. Dubai International Airport expects 89 million passengers this year.
The United States announced a ban on all electronics larger than a standard smartphone on board direct flights out of eight countries across the middle East. US officials would not specify how long the ban will last, but the Dubai-based Emirates told foreign media that it had been instructed to enforce it until at least October 14.
Travellers using 10 airports across the Middle East and North Africa are subject to the ban.
“The ban also covers all electronics sold at Dubai Duty-Free,” Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths told local radio earlier this week.
The Government-owned Emirates operates 18 flights daily to the United States out of Dubai. In an attempt to appease its customers, the airline announced it would be offering complimentary packing and shipping services at gates to enable passengers to use their electronic devices after check-in and until boarding.
Adding to the complication on Saturday, a number of flights out of Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports were delayed due to thunderstorms, including an Emirates flight to Houston.
The US ban affects nine airlines from eight countries: Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Britain has also announced a parallel ban, effective Saturday, targeting all flights out of Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Abu Dhabi, home to UAE national carrier Etihad Airways, is one of the few international airports with a US Customs and Border Protection Facility, which processes immigration and customs inspections before departure.
“All Etihad Airways guests travelling to the United States clear US Immigration and Customs at the US Preclearance facility in Terminal 3, the only one of its kind in the Middle East,” read a statement emailed to foreign media agency.
“When guests land in the US, they arrive as domestic passengers with no requirement to queue for immigration checks again.”
The bans have come under criticism for targeting majority-Muslim countries. The US ban, in particular, has raised eyebrows for covering airports from which US airlines do not operate direct flights.
The United States and Britain have cited intelligence indicating passenger jets could be targeted with explosives planted in such devices.