To the horror of businessmen and parents with easily bored children everywhere. Flights from a number of Middle Eastern Airports will now prevent passengers from bringing large electronics in their hand luggage. This will affect flights to the US from Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia to the UK will also be impacted. You will still be able to take your laptop or tablet in the hold with you, but you won’t be able to bring it as a carry-on.
Yesterday intelligence officials revealed that the new rules stemmed from a Daesh associated threat . Intelligence was obtained which indicated that Daesh associates were working on smuggling explosive-packed electronics onto US bound flights. This intelligence was deemed credible and acted upon by US Officials.
There is a precedent for this kind of terrorism. The insurgent group al-Shabaab smuggled an explosive filled laptop on to a flight departing from Mogadishu last year. The resulting explosion tore a hole in the side of the plane, thankfully the aircraft was still low enough that the pilot was able to land safely. The only person killed was the terrorist who detonated the device. It should also be noted that the terrorist was handed this device after the security check-point. So restrictions on carry-ons likely would not have helped.
Some security experts greeting the announcement with surprise. Phillip Baum, editor of Aviatian Security International said that “If we cannot, in 2017, distinguish between a laptop that contains an IED and one that is not, then our screening process is completely flawed.” On top of this there are fears that criminals will target the hold luggage of passengers boarding these flights in the hopes of acquiring their expensive electronics.There is also the risk that passengers on short haul flights may now be forced to purchase expensive hold luggage instead of just bringing a carry-on, as many of us do when we travel.
So, is this just another example of an ineffective, inconvenient security measure? Or will it save lives? Well, an explosive placed in the hold of a plane would be significantly harder to deploy. Even if it utilized a timer or pressure sensor there is a risk that it would go off on the ground or before the plane reached cruising altitude. This would allow the pilot more opportunity to land, as in the Somali case. It also means that the would-be bomber cannot choose the location of the explosion, giving the aircraft a better chance of survival.
Both the British and US governments have assured their citizens that this measure is being taken in the interest of their safety. Only time will tell whether the measures are effective. In the meantime, Might I suggest investing in some good books and maybe a sturdy luggage lock to pass the time on your flight to Cairo?