Dubai: Emirates aims to let passengers take their laptops past security gates at Dubai International Airport and collect the devices only before boarding as the world's largest international carrier seeks to minimise the impact of an electronics ban on routes to the US.
The state-owned carrier is planning to permit devices affected by the ban within the security perimeter to allow passengers, particularly those flying in premium seats, to use laptops and tablets until the last possible moment, it said in an email.
The airline will then take the items for storage in the cargo hold until arrival.
Additional staff will be deployed to avoid disruptions to the flow of passengers, especially in the first few days of implementing the new rules, which come into effect on March 25.
The US ban, announced Tuesday, prevents passengers on non-stop flights from 10 Middle Eastern airports from bringing large electronics into the aircraft cabin.
"This new security measure is disruptive and operationally challenging in several regards," Emirates President Tim Clark said in a statement.
"We are closely monitoring the business impact of this new security measure, and we will decide on our strategies and interventions accordingly."
Emirates stands to be one of the hardest hit from the new security rules, as well-paying business customers seek alternatives to avoid costly downtime during flights.
Airlines operating out of European hubs could gain with the promise of "making better use of business travelers' time," Jamie Baker, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a note, adding that the electronics ban has "the potential to alter global traffic flows."
"I am optimistic we will get through this," said Emirates' Clark, declining to comment on the motivations behind the ban. "Our job is to comply, and manage the commercial and operational challenge."
Emirates Airline, the largest carrier in the Middle East, runs 18 flights to 12 American destinations daily.
The United States announced on Tuesday that passengers aboard incoming flights from ten Muslim-majority countries will be barred from carrying laptops, iPads, DSLR cameras and other devices in aircraft cabins.
The ban will take effect on Saturday, March 25 until October 14 this year and affect people flying direct to the United States from Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE, Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco and Doha, Qatar.
The United Kingdom also announced a similar ban affecting flights from some airports in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. Canada and France also announced they are mulling a similar move to ban electronics items larger than a mobile phone in the passenger cabin.
Emirates had said it was informed about the ban only on Tuesday, leaving them a very small window to prepare for the new regulations.
However, they are working to ensure disruption to passenger flow and impact on customer experience is minimised.
“We are informing affected customers and coordinating with the various airport stakeholders,” Clark said.
“Emirates will deploy extra staff at the airport to ease and assist passengers, especially in the first days of the new rules taking effect. Our aim is to ensure compliance with the new rules, while minimising disruption.”
Allowing passengers to have access to their laptops and other devices until they are just about to board the plane will lessen the inconvenience among flyers, particularly those who are on a business trip and need to work on their personal laptops.
“We are working on a solution that will enable our passengers to utilise their electronic devices to the last possible moment – whereby they hand their laptops or tablets into our care just before boarding,” Clark said.
“These will then be stowed in the cargo hold and returned to the passengers when the flight lands in the US. It will mean our passengers, particularly those travelling in the premium cabins or flying for business, can still work on their devices while enjoying our lounges at Dubai airport.”
With inputs from Bloomberg