| LONDON, March 22
LONDON, March 22 A ban on laptops in plane
cabins bound for the United States from some cities could deal a
blow to the big, fast-growing Gulf airlines, which depend on
business-class flyers stopping over in places like Dubai or Doha
for far-flung destinations.
The United States announced the new measures on Tuesday and
Britain followed suit, prompted by reports that militant groups
want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets.
The U.S. restrictions apply to flights originating from 10
airports in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar
and Turkey, meaning they will impact major international
carriers including Emirates, Qatar Airways and
Turkish Airlines, but not U.S.-based carriers, none
of which fly to those airports.
The British restrictions do not include the UAE or Qatar but
will affect Turkish Airlines and UK-based carriers including
British Airways, easyJet and Monarch. EasyJet
said the UK restrictions apply from Wednesday.
The restrictions are especially unfortunate for the Gulf
carriers, since a large proportion of their revenue comes from
passengers who change planes at their hubs and have other
options that avoid affected airports.
Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have been battling
lobbying from major U.S. carriers which have accused them of
receiving unfair subsidies, charges the Gulf carriers deny.
Tim Clark, president of Emirates, the world's largest
long-haul carrier, questioned why his airline's hub was on the
"To suggest that Dubai doesn't have the equal capabilities
or better than the Europeans, the Americans and the Asians in
terms of search, interdiction and surveillance, I find amazing,"
he told broadcaster CNN.
In an e-mail to Reuters, he played down the impact on the
company's business: "Yes, this new security measure is
disruptive and operationally challenging in several regards but
I am optimistic we'll get through this."
He said the airline was looking at whether passengers could
hand in their devices just before boarding, so that they could
use them until the last possible moment and minimise disruption.
Business travellers paying top prices for flat beds and
other perks may balk at stowing their laptops on long trips.
According to the Washington DC-based Global Business Travel
Association, around 49 percent of business travellers prefer to
stay connected and get work done while flying. GBTA added that
many companies advise staff travelling on business to keep their
devices close because they may contain sensitive information.
"The corporate segment is the one that brings more revenue.
It's sending the message that we can't travel on these airlines
because we can't do the work, so we might choose another
airline," said travel project manager Nadejda Popova at
Liberum analyst Gerald Khoo said the restrictions could
potentially benefit European carriers such as British Airways
and Iberia parent IAG, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa
, which offer alternative routes between the United
States and Asia, Africa or the Middle East.
"However, it is not clear the route networks are there to
maximise the benefits of traffic switching, and the ban is
another aviation security scare which could have a wider
dampening effect on air travel demand," he said.
A day after the new restrictions, some rival airlines were
already trying to poach business by boasting that they are not
affected by the new rules.
Pakistan International Airlines tweeted: "Did you
know? You can carry your laptop/tablets onboard US bound #PIA
flights. Don't let your work get interrupted onboard."
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; additional reporting by Alexander
Cornwell and Stanley Carvalho; editing by Peter Graff)