Theresa May, the Prime Minister, announced that passengers will be barred from taking laptops into flights from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The move will affect in-bound passengers from those countries on flights by UK carriers including British Airways, Easyjet, Jet 2, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson flights.
It will also affect those flying with foreign carriers including Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, Atlas Global, Egypt Air, Tunisair, Royal Jordanian and Saudia. Airlines which fail to meet the requirements will be barred from flying to the UK, including Kindle and other e-readers.
Passengers will be barred from taking on board devices that are “larger than a normal sized mobile or smart phone”, equivalent to 16cm long, 9.3cm wide and 1.5cm deep. These devices will have to be placed in the hold.
Airlines will be given a “few days” to adjust to the new regulations, and Downing Street acknowledged that the measure would cause disruption for passengers.
However the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “The additional security measures may cause some disruption for passengers and flights, and we understand the frustration that will cause, but our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals.”
The Department of Homeland Security in the US announced a ban on Tuesday after revealing that extremists are seeking “innovative methods” to bring down jets amid concerns that bombs will be hidden in laptops.
The US ban goes significantly further than the UK’s by affecting flights from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
Mrs May’s spokesman said that the UK has been “in close touch” with the US to “fully understand their position.
The spokesman said: “The safety and security of the travelling public is our highest priority. That is why we keep our aviation security under constant review and put in place measures we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate. “
The US said that the decision was based on “evaluated intelligence”, suggesting that the intelligence services have either intercepted a discussion about an extremist plot or been passed information by a source.
Aviation security experts were alarmed by an incident in Somalia last year when the insurgent group al-Shabaab smuggled an explosive-filled laptop on a flight out of Mogadishu, blowing a hole in the side of the plane. The aircraft was still low enough that the pilot was able to land the plane safely.
In a statement, the Department for Homeland Security said: “The US government is concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years, as evidenced by the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt; the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia; and the 2016 armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul.
“Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”
US officials told CNN that the ban is related to a threat posed by Al-Qaeda.”Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items,” an official said.
Airlines will be responsible for policing the cabin ban, and if they fail to do so could lose their rights to operate US routes. No end date has been put on the order, and officials would not say whether the restriction might spread to other airports.
The airlines and their host governments have already been informed of the order by US officials, and some of them have begun informing passengers about the restriction.
Turkish Airlines put out a statement confirming the ban. “At Turkish Airlines we kindly inform our passengers that any electronic or electrical devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone (except medical devices) must not be transported on board in our flights arriving to the US destinations,” it said.