From Tuesday on, passengers traveling to the U.S. from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries will not be allowed to have iPads, laptops or any communications device larger than a smartphone in the cabin of the plane. If you are traveling from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the UAE on Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, or Turkish Airlines, and you want to use your laptop on the flight, you are probably out of luck.
So why is the United States doing this, and how can it get away with it?
The U.S. says it’s all about security
The Trump administration says the new rules were introduced because of intelligence that shows terrorists are continuing to target airlines flying to the United States. An unidentified person familiar with the issue has told The Washington Post that officials have long been worried by a Syrian terrorist group that is trying to build bombs inside electronic devices that are hard to detect.
However, as Demitri Sevastopulo and Robert Wright at the Financial Times suggest, non-U. S. observers are skeptical of this explanation. They note that the United States has not been forthcoming about whether the ban is based on recent intelligence or long-standing concerns. There is also no explanation for why electronic devices in the cabin are a concern, and electronic devices in the baggage hold are not.
There is an alternative explanation
It may not be about security. Three of the airlines that have been targeted for these measures — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — have long been accused by their U.S. competitors of receiving massive effective subsidies from their governments. These airlines have been quietly worried for months that President Trump was going to retaliate. This may be the retaliation.
These three airlines, as well as the other airlines targeted in the order, are likely to lose a major amount of business from their most lucrative customers — people who travel in business class and first class. Business travelers are disproportionately likely to want to work on the plane — the reason they are prepared to pay business-class or first-class fares is because it allows them to work in comfort. These travelers are unlikely to appreciate having to do all their work on smartphones, or not being able to work at all. The likely result is that many of them will stop flying on Gulf airlines, and start traveling on U.S. airlines instead.
Read the full piece at The Washington Post.