June 29, 2017 / 12:27 PM / 23 days ago

Emirates seeks laptop ban reprieve with new U.S. travel security measures

An Emirates Airlines ticket desk stands empty at JFK International Airport in New York, U.S., March 21, 2017.Lucas Jackson/Files

DUBAI (Reuters) - Emirates, the Middle East's largest airline, said on Thursday it would work with authorities to implement new security measures on flights to the United States "as soon as possible" - a move that could help it overturn an in-cabin ban on laptops.

The measures, which European and U.S. officials said would begin taking effect within three weeks, could replace the in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronics on direct flights to the United States from the Middle East.

Lifting the ban would be a welcome reprieve for Middle East carrier which have seen demand to the United States weakened by travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration.

"We welcome the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s latest directive on enhanced screening measures," an Emirates spokeswoman said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the authorities and Dubai airport stakeholders to implement these measures as soon as possible for our U.S. flights.”

Rival Etihad Airways said the pre-clearance facility at its Abu Dhabi International Airport hub, which clears passengers through U.S. immigration before departure, adheres to the short-term measures outlined in the new directive.

"We look forward to working with the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and verifying that the security measures are in place which will see the ban lifted on personal electronic devices being carried in the cabin on our flights to the U.S.," a spokesman for the Abu Dhabi-based carrier said.

In March, laptops were banned from the cabins of flights to the United States originating at 10 airports in the Middle East, including Abu Dhabi International and Emirates' Dubai International Airport hub, to address fears that bombs could be concealed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft.

The 10 Middle East airports where laptops are banned from the cabin on U.S. flights will be able to get off the list if they meet the new security requirements, Homeland Security officials said on Wednesday.

"Lifting the ban on bringing laptops and other personal electronic devices onboard will be good news for travellers flying into the U.S.," Emirates' spokeswoman said.

U.S. authorities want increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas, expanded canine screening and additional places where travellers can be cleared by U.S. officials before they depart.

European and U.S. officials told Reuters that airlines have 21 days to put in place increased explosive trace detection screening and have 120 days to comply with other security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Adrian Croft

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