Emirates Airlines flight attendants come through the international arrivals gate from Dubai at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. Picture: REUTERS
Emirates Airlines flight attendants come through the international arrivals gate from Dubai at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. Picture: REUTERS

Dubai — Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul airline, said measures barring laptops from the cabins of aircraft leaving its Dubai base for the US have been lifted.

That leaves Qatar Airways as the only major carrier still affected by the ban.

The moratorium, imposed in March, was removed on Wednesday following work with local authorities and regulators on implementing the "heightened security measures and protocols" required by the US, Emirates said in a statement.

Dubai becomes the third major hub to normalise access to personal devices on US-bound flights.

Istanbul, home base to Turkish Airlines, also declared itself free of the ban Wednesday after saying on Monday that the restrictions would be dropped, while Etihad Airways hub Abu Dhabi secured exemption last Sunday, aided by the presence of a US "pre-clearance" border post there.

The moves leave Qatar Air’s Doha hub isolated as the only significant global interchange still affected by the American curbs.

The carrier, also under siege from travel and airspace bans by neighbouring Arab states over its government owner’s links to Iran, did not respond to requests for comment other than referring Bloomberg to a statement on the restrictions.

Demand dip

Escaping the laptop ban is seen as vital for Mideast operators after the measures led some customers to switch to airlines where they could still use equipment also including tablet computers and games consoles. Emirates cut back operations to the US, where it serves 12 cities, in response to a dip in demand from the restrictions and temporary limitations on entry visas.

Other airports among the 10 affected by the US ban are also moving toward a resolution, with Saudi Arabia Airlines saying Tuesday that it effects to be free of the curbs by July 19. Amman-based Royal Jordanian said it has also asked the US Transportation Services Authority to approve its response to the new guidelines requiring stricter security scans and checks.

That leaves airports in Kuwait, Morocco and Egypt — as well as Qatar Air’s Doha hub — still struggling to throw off the restrictions. Smaller airports are likely to find it tougher to comply with the heightened security steps required by the US, since they lack both funds and access to the latest equipment.

While the removal of the electronics ban strips away one travel hurdle for carriers, the revival of US restrictions on visas for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries could still mean fewer passengers on some flights. Demand in the Persian Gulf has also weakened as the low price of crude holds back oil-based economies.

Bloomberg

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