Gulf airlines Etihad, Qatar work around U.S. cabin laptops ban

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2017 10:53 AM

DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways are lending some passengers laptop computers and tablets to use on their flights following the new U.S. ban on allowing passengers' to take their own devices into the cabin on flights to the United States.

The security measures introduced on March 25 could deal a blow to the big, fast-growing Gulf airlines, which depend on business-class flyers stopping over in places like Dubai or Doha for far-flung destinations.

Qatar Airways said on Thursday complimentary laptops would be available to business class passengers traveling to the United States from next week.

Business class passengers will collect the laptops just prior to boarding, where they will also be able to hand over their own devices to be stowed in the hold with checked-in luggage, the Doha-based airline said in a statement.

Similarly, Etihad emailed frequent flyer members on Tuesday to announce it would lend out tablets and offer unlimited wifi to business and first-class passengers traveling on U.S.-bound flights.

Reuters has seen a copy of the email.

Etihad has previously said passengers could hand over prohibited devices at the gate in order to minimize the disruption.

Emirates is also considering loaning devices to passengers traveling to the United States, President Tim Clark was quoted as telling Bloomberg on Monday.

The airline was the first to say its passengers could hand over devices immediately prior to boarding.

The new regulations apply to direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The regulations, prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets, state that electronics larger than a mobile phone - including laptops and tablets - must be stowed with checked baggage on U.S.-bound passenger flights.

Industry experts argue the ban could weaken passenger demand for the Gulf carriers on U.S. routes, especially among business travelers who use the long flying time to complete work on their laptops.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, Tom Finn in London and Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi; Editing by Greg Mahlich)