Laptop ban hits Gulf airlines in battle for business travelers

Wed Mar 22, 2017 12:18pm EDT
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By Victoria Bryan

LONDON (Reuters) - A ban on laptops in plane cabins bound for the United States from some cities could deal a blow to the big, fast-growing Gulf airlines, which depend on business-class flyers stopping over in places like Dubai or Doha for far-flung destinations.

The United States announced the new measures on Tuesday and Britain followed suit, prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets.

The U.S. restrictions apply to flights originating from 10 airports in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey, meaning they will impact major international carriers including Emirates [EMIRA.UL], Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS: Quote), but not U.S.-based carriers, none of which fly to those airports.

The British restrictions do not include the UAE or Qatar but will affect Turkish Airlines and UK-based carriers including British Airways (ICAG.L: Quote), easyJet (EZJ.L: Quote) and Monarch. EasyJet said the UK restrictions apply from Wednesday.

The restrictions are especially unfortunate for the Gulf carriers, since a large proportion of their revenue comes from passengers who change planes at their hubs and have other options that avoid affected airports.

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have been battling lobbying from major U.S. carriers which have accused them of receiving unfair subsidies, charges the Gulf carriers deny.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates, the world's largest long-haul carrier, questioned why his airline's hub was on the list.

"To suggest that Dubai doesn't have the equal capabilities or better than the Europeans, the Americans and the Asians in terms of search, interdiction and surveillance, I find amazing," he told broadcaster CNN.   Continued...

Travellers are seen at the Emirates terminal at Dubai International Airport, January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh