The US just made traveling to certain parts of the world considerably more complicated, at least if you’re a technology fan. Middle Eastern and African airlines (including Royal Jordanian and Saudia) say the US has asked them to institute a 96-hour ban on carrying most electronics on flights to or from the US, starting on March 21st. You can sit down with your phone or any necessary medical devices, but cameras, laptops and other gadgets will have to go into your checked baggage. The exact conditions of the ban aren’t yet clear, but an American official said that “12+” airlines are covered, while Saudia exec Abdulrahman al Fahad mentioned 13 countries being affected.
Royal Jordanian, which flies between its hub in Amman and New York, Detroit and Chicago, tweeted:
“Following instructions from the concerned US departments, we kindly inform our dearest passengers departing to and arriving from the United States that carrying any electronic or electrical device on board the flight cabins is strictly prohibited.”
While mobile phones and “medical devices needed during the flight” are permitted in the cabin, all other devices are banned.
“Prohibited devices, including for instance laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games … etc, can be carried in the checked baggage only,” says the airline.
The reason for the surprise restrictions isn’t clear (Homeland Security isn’t commenting as of this writing), but this kind of sudden yet short ban tends to be in response to a specific and imminent terrorist threat. The US’ Transportation Security Administration is already worried about bogus devices being used to smuggle explosives, weapons and contraband aboard flights — this suggests that there may have been plans for just such an attack. While there could be alternate motives for the ban, it’s the most plausible explanation so far.
UPDATE: Jordanian Airlines has removed their tweet about the ban