A seven-month ban on any electronic devices bigger than a mobile phone being taken into an aircraft cabin is about to begin — on a very specific set of flights.
The affected routes are to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa - all in countries with Muslim majorities.
The US authorities are believed to be concerned about a possible attempt to down a plane by smuggling explosives on board in the battery compartment of an electronic device.
The airline with by far the largest network to the US from the region is Emirates, based in Dubai.
A spokesperson for the airline told The Independent: “Emirates can confirm that as per the new security directive issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), electronic devices larger than a cell phone/smart phone, excluding medical devices, cannot be carried in the cabin of the aircraft.
“The directive comes into effect on 25 March 2017 and is valid until 14 October 2017.
“It is applicable to all US-bound passengers from Dubai International Airport, whether originating or transiting through.
“Emirates requests that all passengers travelling to the US pack all electronic devices larger than a cell phone/smart phone in their checked-in baggage.”
Qatar Airways, based in Doha, said all its US-bound flights from today would be subject to the new rules: “Effective 21 March in accordance with new United States government regulations, all passengers travelling on United States-bound flights are prohibited from carrying any electronic devices on board the flight other than cellular and smart phones and medical devices needed during the flight.
The carrier said it had made "special arrangements to assist passengers in securing their devices in the aircraft's baggage hold".
But at Abu Dhabi airport, Etihad continues to insist that no instruction has been received. The carrier said: “The airline’s policies have not changed but we will continue to work closely with the authorities in the USA and here in Abu Dhabi through the officials of the Customs and Border Protection Unit at the airport.
"If the guidance is revised we will ensure our passengers are updated accordingly as safety and security remain a top priority.”
Flights to the US from Casablanca and Cairo, hubs respectively for Royal Air Maroc and Egyptair, are also affected.
The news first broke in a now-deleted tweet from Royal Jordanian, which said the ban was based on “instructions from the concerned US departments”. The Transportation Security Administration has yet formally to comment.
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