DUBAI/WELLINGTON New Zealand is considering restrictions on laptops and other large electronic devices on flights from some Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, the country's prime minister said on Monday.
The new rules would follow similar measures introduced last month by the United States, Britain and Australia.
The New Zealand leader elaborated on comments made by transport minister Simon Bridges, who told Reuters in an interview in Dubai on Sunday that the country's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) "is assessing the evidence to determine what is appropriate".
Prime Minister Bill English told reporters in Wellington that the aviation agency was considering the issue and would make a decision on whether to restrict large electronic items on flights from the Middle East independently of the government.
"A number of our security partners put those arrangements in place. With this particular proposition there's a balance between inconvenience for passengers, many of whom live off their laptop on the one hand, but on the other hand it’s making sure that the flying is safe," English said.
On March 25, the United States banned electronic devices larger than a mobile phone from passenger cabins of direct flights from eight countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Britain followed the same day with similar measures, including banning larger electronics on flights from some Middle East countries but not Qatar and the UAE where it instead requested additional security checks.
Additional security measures required by New Zealand would affect passengers flying from Dubai in the UAE and Doha, Qatar, where carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways, respectively, fly direct to New Zealand.
The CAA said in a statement that it was routinely monitoring security screening in international airports.
"The comments by the Minister of Transport in Dubai refer to routine activity at last ports of departure to New Zealand - assurance that security screening meets the expected standards for flights in-bound to New Zealand," said Mike Richards, CAA manager of communications and safety.
The agency said there was no specific timeframe for when a decision would be made.
The additional security measures by the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia were made based on intelligence suggesting flights could be targeted for attack.
Last week, Emirates said it was cutting flights to the United States after new restrictions weakened demand.
Bridges said he is scheduled to meet with Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum this week where he would make clear that New Zealand is open to additional services.
($1 = 1.4223 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in DUBAI and Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Muralikumar Anantharaman)