The US is banning in-flight electronics on some Middle East routes for security reasons

A Royal Jordanian Airbus A319.
A Royal Jordanian Airbus A319.
Image: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
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Update: The US has now officially announced the new measure. It affects 56 routes to the US from 10 airports on eight airlines. Read more about it here.

The US Department of Homeland Security is rolling out a ban on carrying electronics in passenger cabins on some flights to and from the US from several countries in the Middle East.

DHS said the ban is for “security precautions,” an official for a related government agency told Quartz. Saudia Airlines, the national carrier of Saudi Arabia, tweeted Monday evening that portable computers, Kindles, and iPads would not be allowed in the cabin on flights into the US.

Royal Jordanian airlines told passengers today on Twitter that it will begin prohibiting electronic devices in the passenger cabin, with the exception of medical devices and mobile phones, on all flights to and from the United States.

Image for article titled The US is banning in-flight electronics on some Middle East routes for security reasons

Hours after it first tweeted the information, however, the tweet was deleted.

The ban Royal Jordanian and Saudia Airlines referenced appears to be part of a larger crackdown by US authorities on electronics devices on flights coming from several countries.

Abdulrahman H. Alfahad, who appears to be an executive at Saudia Airlines based on his other social media accounts, posted on a personal twitter account that a directive was given for passengers on flights originating from 13 countries.

Cabin rules for flights under US jurisdiction are typically set by the US Federal Aviation Administration. When questioned about the potential new restriction a spokesman for the agency said that he wasn’t aware of an FAA edict along those lines. After looking into the issue, however, the spokesman referred all questions to the US Department of Homeland Security.

In a exceptionally rapid response, a DHS spokesman returned Quartz’s emailed request for comment in 57 seconds, saying “We have no comment on potential security precautions.”

The Associated Press reports that John Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary, contacted policy makers in recent days to inform them about aviation security issues that spurred the device ban.

Qatar, Etihad, and Emirates did not immediately respond to inquiries about any restrictions to electronics in their cabins on certain or all flights. United and Delta each said they had nothing to share at this time, while American Airlines said “We don’t anticipate any changes for flights operated by American Airlines.”

The Royal Jordanian tweet specifically mentions laptops, cameras, DVD players, and gaming devices as banned at the request of “the concerned US departments.” The edict was distributed by the US Transportation Safety Administration on Monday, with immediate effect, the Guardian reported. The TSA referred all questions to the DHS.

If it is enforced, the restriction would be in direct conflict with the rules for baggage carried in the hold, because lithium batteries are not allowed to be checked due to their risk of catching fire. Passengers are required to carry them in the cabin to make sure that if they do catch fire or begin to overheat, they can be extinguished.

With assistance from Abdi Latif in Nairobi and Heather Timmons in Washington, D.C.