News Mar 24, 2017 09:39 AM EDT

Gulf airlines worry about effects of electronics ban; UK follows new security measure

By April Kirstin Chua

Tough security restrictions on flights to the US brought about by the electronics ban could deal a major blow to big Middle Eastern airlines.

Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways are among the 10 airlines that must follow the ban, which is to prevent passengers flying from the Middle East to the United States from carrying almost all types of electronic devices in the cabin.

According to the new electronics ban, larger than smartphones such as iPads, Kindles and laptops will have to be checked in so that passengers could clear security and board their flight. The rules will be enforced come March 25.

The big three Gulf airlines have promised to comply with the directive but didn't comment publicly on its impact.

A senior executive at one of the Gulf carriers says he was watching the booking closely and expected them to fall following the news of the electronics ban. He describes the decision made by the Trump administration as very unfair and unwarranted. The airlines will also have to figure out how to apply the new restrictions and bear additional costs to the passengers.

"The cost of added security measures, delays in flights because of passenger compliance or check-in delays... will add to their costs and have a roll over effect where someone has to pick up that tab," said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

Another risk that the Gulf airlines foresee is that they could risk losing passengers to other carriers not affected by the electronics ban. Senior officials say that the electronics ban, which is introduced due to terrorism concerns, comes at a tricky time for the carriers. This is because Trump's travel ban in January has already caused a huge headache for the airlines after it rolled out. Emirates claim that the rate of booking dropped 35 percent after following the ban.

Meanwhile, the Gulf airlines will not be affected by similar restrictions announced by the UK on Tuesday. The United Kingdom has followed the United States in implementing the electronics ban in all the carriers as part of a security measure. The government notes that the electronics ban may cause some disruption to passengers and flights but vows that the top priority would be to maintain the safety of British nationals.

The affected airlines include British Airways, EasyJet,, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Saudia. The UK government said in a statement that it has been in close touch with the Americans to fully understand their position. The nine airlines affected by the electronics ban were notified of the procedures at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday and it is not clear whether other countries will follow the US and Britain. 

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