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One airline from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Etihad Airways, says bookings to the US are ‘strong’ despite the ban on the use of electronic equipment in passenger cabins imposed by the White House on planes flying from the Middle East.
The lounge and bar area at the business class deck after the first landing of an Emirates Airbus A380 © Kai Pfaffenbach / ReutersUS electronics on flights ban may not be just about security
“Bookings to US destinations remain healthy, and customer feedback to the initiatives taken by Etihad Airways to provide for their business and entertainment needs has been very positive,” said an Etihad spokesman, as quoted by Reuters.
Last month, Washington banned laptops, tablets or any communication gadgets larger than a smartphone from being brought to the cabin of planes on direct flights to the US from ten airports in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, including the United Arab Emirates.
The US government said the measure had been necessary due to terror concerns in commercial aviation. The ban reportedly came amid fears that terrorists may smuggle explosive devices in consumer electronic gadgets.
The UK has backed the measure with British security officials prohibiting some devices on board flights from six countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, security officials from France, Germany and the Netherlands said they had no plans to support the ban due to a lack of complete information from the US and UK to warrant it.
Industry experts warned the step could be harmful to the rapidly growing business of Gulf carriers with a risk of them losing a huge portion of the most lucrative business class and first class customers. Corporate flyers commonly use their travel time to work, mostly on laptops and other devices.
However, some analysts say the US ban on gadgets is not just about security. The move was reportedly aimed at retaliating against the world’s most successful airlines, including Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways to ease competition on American rivals. US-based carriers have repeatedly accused the Gulf airlines of receiving massive subsidies from their governments.
Last week, Etihad, the second-largest airline in the UAE, announced plans to lend approved tablets and offer unlimited w-fi to business and first class flyers heading to the US. Qatar Airways followed suit with Emirates Airways considering similar measures.
In March, Dubai’s Emirates saw a 35 percent decline in bookings on US flights after the ban was introduced.
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