ABU DHABI // UAE airlines on Saturday begun implementing the US ban on taking electronic devices aboard their airliners.
The ban affected direct flights to the United States from Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports after an announcement last week by US authorities on a ban on all electronics larger than a standard smartphone on flights from eight countries in the Middle East in response to a terrorist threat.
Emirates operates 18 flights daily to the US from Dubai, while Etihad Airways operates 45 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and six US cities.
A spokesman for Etihad said the airline did not have any problems with the ban on day one and their guests were well aware of the new restrictions.
“We’re very pleased with how passengers have responded and worked with us. There were no issues encountered during the first day and only a small number of travellers were unaware of the implementation,” he said.
“Guests were assisted at the US pre-clearance facility at Abu Dhabi airport, and their devices were safely packed and stowed in the hold for return once they arrived in the United States.”
By Saturday night, seven Etihad flights were bound for the US.
“The airline did not suffer any delays or disruption to flights, and our measures have supported an efficient experience for our guests.
“We will continue to inform and provide assistance to passengers while we adhere to the new rules, as passenger safety remains a priority,” the Etihad spokesman said.
At Abu Dhabi International Airport, all Etihad customers travelling to the US clear US Immigration and Customs at the preclearance facility, where Etihad had deployed more staff.
US officials would not specify how long the ban will last, but Emirates said that it had been instructed to enforce the measures until at least October 14.
The ban covers electronics sold at Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths said last week.
Abu Dhabi resident Alan Dickey said his daughter, who was one of the first passengers out of the capital on a US-bound flight after the ban was implemented, said she did not face any issues.
“My daughter flew out early morning on Saturday to Chicago and there was zero line at check-in,” Mr Dickey said.
“They handed her a memo about the laptop ban. We had already bubble-wrapped it, put it in a box, wrapped that in clothes and put it into a hard-sided suitcase. They did want the charger also put into checked baggage.
“There were also no lines at the e-gates. We got to the airport about 12.30am and she was at the gate just before 2.30am.
“It went pretty smoothly but the flight was not very full either.”
Samuel Porter, who was travelling from Dubai with his family, decided to “avoid delays” at the airport by putting his laptop in the hold.
“The only issue is the kids. I have two kids and the iPad is always in their hands. Maybe they will watch a documentary and learn something useful this time,” he said.
A similar ban has also begun on flights from airports in the region to the UK, although this does not affect UAE airports.
One element that did disrupt flights on Saturday was the rain across the UAE.
Several flights in and out of the country were delayed, diverted or cancelled.
Dubai Airports said 15 flights had to be diverted to neighbouring airports, while Emirates reported that a numerous flights were affected.
According to flightradar24.com, the average delay at Dubai International Airport on Saturday was 40 minutes and 61 per cent of flights were delayed. Fourteen per cent of flights were cancelled.
Dubai Airports said it is working with airlines to minimise disruption but unstable weather conditions are set to continue into Monday.
Additional reporting by AFP