PHOTO: Laptops are part of the electronics ban issued by the US government. (photo via Flickr/Nate Grigg)
Travel advocates continue to express concern and frustration over the latest airline-centric move by the Trump administration—a ban on carrying on electronic devices bigger than a cellphone into the cabin of certain airplanes.
The US is prohibiting items such as laptops, tablets, cameras, children’s video games and more from nine Middle Eastern and African-based airlines—as well as from 10 airports—that fly to the United States. Those items must be placed in checked luggage.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents most of the world’s major airlines, hinted in a statement that this electronics ban was a clumsy effort. This parallels the original travel ban against seven primarily Muslim nations that was thrust upon airlines and airports with little advance notice in January.
“Safety and security is the top priority of everyone involved in aviation,” it said. “Airlines comply with government requirements and they can do this most effectively when measures are well coordinated.”
The Global Business Travel Association expressed concern that the ban will be a nightmare for businesses.
“Not allowing (business travelers) to bring their devices on the plane cuts productivity, taking away time that they can be getting business done,” GBTA said in a statement. “Many business travelers also prefer to keep their devices close for security purposes because they may contain sensitive company information.”
In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Turkish transport minister Ahmet Arslan said his government will officially ask the US to overturn the ban.
“We particularly emphasize that they should not mix Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport with other airports in other countries,” he said. “We say that either it should be reversed or eased.”
READ MORE: US Travel Association Reacts To Electronics Ban
There is also a question of whether the US purposely included the Middle East’s big three Gulf airlines on its list—Emirates, Etihad and Qatar—as a message over the Open Skies debate.
Those three carriers have been in a long, heated rivalry over international flights with the US-based American, Delta and United airlines, which has accused its Gulf rivals of accepting more than $50 billion in government subsidies over the last decade.
The US said its basis for the electronics ban was credible evidence of a terrorist threat. But many noted that the United Kingdom—which agreed with the ban and put its own in place hours after the US announcement—did not include Emirates, Etihad and Qatar on the British list of six airlines.
"If you squint hard enough, there is some justification on a security basis for this, but the implementation has been haphazard and in manner that is particularly targeted at and does harm to the commercial interests of a set of airlines that has been the source of much competitive hand-wringing from US airlines," Airways senior business analyst Vinay Bhaskara told Business Insider.
A senior administration official told Business Insider there was no relationship between the electronics ban and the feud between the American and Middle Eastern airlines.