Shock US and UK ban hits SA pax

While direct US flights operated by SAA and Delta Air Lines are not affected by the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) ban on carrying certain electronic devices in the cabin, many SA passengers travelling via Mid-East hubs are nevertheless affected. On March 21, the DHS announced a ban on all electronic devices larger than a cellphone/ smart phone on board the aircraft in carryon luggage or other accessible property on flights from certain airports to the US.

Six airlines operating indirect services to the US out of SA use hubs included in the ban. The airlines and hubs are Emirates (DXB), Turkish Airlines (IST), Etihad (AUH), Qatar (DOH), EgyptAir (CAI) and Saudia (JED). The UK then followed with its own ban on devices larger than 16cm x 9,3cm x 1,5cm on flights from Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries that do not have services to SA. At this stage, the UK has not included flights from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. The DHS made the announcement earlier this week as a result of intelligence they received that terrorist groups were looking at innovative ways to smuggle explosive devices on board commercial flights. It is a trend rather than a specific alert and the measure is seen as an enhanced security measure. At this point it affects 10 of the 250 airports with flights into the US.

No domestic flights in the US are affected. Medical devices are excluded. In South Africa, where theft out of suitcases passing through its airports has been rampant and check-in staff routinely caution travellers to leave nothing of value in their checked-in luggage, this ban poses a particular problem. The DHS said that, as the threat picture changed, other airports and even domestic flights might be affected.