The Department of Homeland Security said the restrictions would apply to flights from 10 foreign airports in eight Muslim-majority countries, including Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. It cited fresh “evaluated intelligence” that suggested terror groups continued to target commercial flights by “smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items”. The U.K. later issued a similar ban on all flights from airports in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia.
For people departing from the airports named by the U.S., devices larger than a mobile telephone, such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras, are prohibited from being carried aboard but can be placed in checked luggage. Medical devices are exempt but still have to be scanned before being taken aboard. In addition to Ataturk, the U.S. named the following airports: Jordan's Queen Alia International Airport; Cairo International Airport; King Abdul-Aziz International Airport and King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia; Morocco's Mohammed V Airport; Hamad International Airport in Qatar; Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE; and Kuwait International Airport. The Homeland Security Department said a “small percentage of flights” to the U.S. would be affected and the regulations would remain in place “until the threat hanges”.
“These are risk-based decisions and TSA continuously assesses security risks and seeks to balance necessary security requirements with their operational impact on the industry,” the statement said, referring to the Transportation Security Administration. The British ban related to devices larger than 16 centimeters (6 inches) by 9 cm (3-and-a-half inches). “These new measures apply to flights into the U.K. and we are not currently advising against flying to and from those countries,” the U.K. government said in a statement. In Turkey, Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan complained that the U.S. ban was unfair.
“This practice is neither fair for our country nor for the United States,” he told journalists in Ankara.
“All kinds of precautions should be taken, however, we believe that it would be more productive and good for passengers’ wellness to be able to do their work on such devices [especially] during a journey of around 12 hours.”
He added: “Since yesterday, our officials have been talking with the U.S. authorities to step back from this practice or to reduce it.”
Turkish Airlines operate non-stop flights to the U.S. and the U.K. from Ataturk, which deals with more than 80 million flights annually.
“Turkey already takes all necessary precautions for a safe flight,” Arslan said. “How to implement this ban is not our concern. We worry about a possible decline in the number of passengers, their travel comfort and how they benefit from this practice.”