Etihad Airways has been exempted from a U.S. ban on laptops and other electronics for flights from Abu Dhabi International Airport, officials said Sunday, the change to a three-month-old Trump administration policy affecting flights to the United States from eight Muslim-majority countries.
The other airlines and airports included in the March laptop ban remain affected by it.
Officials said the laptop restrictions were removed for Etihad after inspections by the Transportation Security Administration verified that Department of Homeland Security measures announced last week had been implemented correctly at the airline.
“We commend Etihad for working swiftly to implement these additional measures,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said in an email. “Their efforts are a model for both foreign and domestic airlines looking to adopt the new measures.”
“We welcome the decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” an Etihad Airways spokesperson said.
The Trump administration, citing unspecified terrorism concerns, announced in March that passengers traveling from 10 cities would be prohibited from bringing laptops and certain personal electronic devices on board with them.
The other cities are Amman, Cairo, Casablanca, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait City and Riyadh. U.S. carriers were exempted from the ban.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested in a May appearance on Fox News that the ban could be expanded to all international flights, but officials backed away from that proposal last week.
Also last week, officials announced enhanced security and screening measures for all U.S. flights, saying affected airlines could be cleared from the laptop ban if they successfully adopt the new protocols. The security measures include beefed-up passenger screening, closer examination of personal devices like cell phones and iPads and expanded canine screening.
Etihad Airways carries out about 45 flights each week between Abu Dhabi and six U.S. cities, and is the only arline with direct flights to the United States from Abu Dhabi. It flies twice a day to New York, daily to Washington Dulles International Airport, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, and three times a week to San Francisco.
The airline transported 203,515 passengers to the United States from Abu Dhabi between Jan. 1 and April 30, an increase of 13,157 passengers over the same period last year.
Etihad passengers clear U.S. Customs at the Abu Dhabi airport, in the only facility of its kind operated by the U.S. Customs and Boarder Patrol in the Middle East. When they arrive in the U.S. they are treated as domestic passengers and do not have to pass through customs a second time.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Aaron Gregg, Ashley Halsey Iii