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Airline electronics ban: What you need to know

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Airlines that fly from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to the U.S. must require passengers to check in almost all electronic devices rather than carry them into the cabin, said a U.S. official.

HONG KONG– Flying direct to the U.S. from major airports in the Middle East and North Africa just got a lot more complicated.

The Trump administration has ordered nine airlines to stop passengers from bringing most electronic devices into the cabin for U.S.-bound flights. Instead, they’ll have to check them in.

The sudden move, attributed to concerns about potential terrorist attacks, creates a new headache for airline staff and passengers.

Here are the key things to know:

Which airports are involved?

The 10 airports covered by the ban include major global hubs such as Dubai.

The full list: Cairo, Egypt; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Istanbul; Doha, Qatar; Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; and Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Which airlines are affected?

The nine airlines that operate direct flights to the U.S. from those airports are Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

U.S. airlines are not affected because none of them fly from the airports in question to the United States, according to U.S. government officials.

Which devices are banned?

Passengers will have to check in any electronic devices bigger than a smartphone. That includes laptops, cameras, gaming devices and tablets such as iPads.

One of the affected airlines, Royal Jordanian, said that medical devices would still be allowed in the cabin.

When will it take effect?

The U.S. government officially notified the airlines at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday. They have 96 hours to fully comply.

And if they don’t? “We will work with the FAA to pull their certificate and they will not be allowed to fly to the United States,” one senior U.S. official said.

What are the airlines saying?

Etihad and Turkish Airlines said they had received the notification from the U.S. government and were reviewing it.

Emirates said it hadn’t yet received any notification but would “comply with any new operational or regulatory requirements issued by the relevant authorities.”

Other airlines, including Royal Jordanian and Saudi Arabian Airlines, have said they will implement the measures.

What’s the reason for the ban?

U.S. officials say the move is a response to fears that terrorist groups may target passenger planes by smuggling explosive devices in consumer goods.

One official said there’s no specific plot authorities are aware of, but the U.S. has been considering such a ban for some time.

Why these airports?

The U.S. is especially concerned about the 10 airports in question, the official said, because of screening issues and the possibility of terrorists infiltrating authorized airport personnel.

Flight and cabin crews are not covered by the new restrictions.

Officials said that they believe a threat to the U.S. would be negated if a passenger transferred through a secondary city with additional and more trustworthy screening procedures.

Isn’t it dangerous to put electronic devices in checked baggage?

Safety experts and regulators have long warned that batteries shipped in bulk could constitute a fire risk that ultimately could bring down an aircraft. The International Civil Aviation Organization advised global regulators last year to ban carrying bulk shipments of such batteries in the cargo holds of passenger jets.

But electronics spread out across a person’s luggage pose far less of a threat than palettes of lithium batteries, according to a U.S. aviation official.