Dubai: Etihad Airways said on Sunday it is fully lifting the electronics ban on board its flights to the United States after approval from the US Department of Homeland Security.
“Effective immediately, the removal of the restrictions allows passenger flying to the US to carry all laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices onto the aircraft, subject to enhanced security measures,” Etihad said.
In an emailed statement, the Abu Dhabi carrier said the lifting of the ban follows “the successful validation of security measures at the US Preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi airport” earlier on Sunday.
New restrictions on flights to US soon
Now, New Zealand considers laptop ban on flights from MiddleEast
US may ban laptops on all flights from Europe
Laptop ban hits Dubai for 1.1m weekend travellers
Etihad currently operates 45 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and six cities across the US that include New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The carrier said the US is one of its largest markets, with 203,515 passengers flying to America from Abu Dhabi in the first four months of 2017. The figure marks an increase of 13,157 passengers from the same period in 2016, reflecting strong demand for travel to the US despite bans such as the visa ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.
All Etihad passengers traveling to the US clear US immigration and customs at the preclearance facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport, the only such facility in the Middle East. When passengers then land in the US, they are not required to queue for immigration and custom checks again.
Etihad said it welcomes the decision by Homeland Security to lift the electronic devices ban and thanked customer for their understanding while the ban was in place.
The ban on carry-on devices larger than a smartphone on direct flights to the US was implemented in March, and affected carriers flying from 10 Middle Eastern airports including Abu Dhabi International and Dubai International.
The ban was widely criticized, however, by analysts and industry experts who said it would hurt carriers in the Middle East and would not be effective in making travel more secure.
“There is growing evidence that the ban on large electronic devices in the cabin and the uncertainty created around possible US travel bans is taking a toll on some key routes,” said Alexandre De Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) last month.