Qatar Airways CEO hits out at electronics ban to US

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

The new laptop and tablet ban onboard flights heading to the US has hurt Qatar Airways’ business, its CEO admitted this week.

It also doesn’t actually make people safer, Akbar Al Baker told CNN.

The comments are a departure from remarks the official made late last month, when the ban was first introduced.

At the time, Al Baker said that the policy was simply a “security measure” that did not target Gulf airlines unfairly.

But now, he said that the measure is ineffective because it does not stop terrorists from carrying out attacks on planes that don’t have electronics bans.

“It was not necessary to frighten passengers and put a strain on airlines,” he told CNN, continuing:

“If (Trump) continues this way, at the end of the day you will have people sitting in the airplane with underwear and nothing (else) on them.”

US, UK restrictions

Since the end of March, electronic items larger than cell phones have not been permitted inside the cabin of aircraft flying to the US from 10 Middle Eastern cities, including Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Instead, passengers must check their laptops, iPads and e-readers, among other devices. Nine airlines are affected by the ban, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad.

HIA security

Brian Candy/Flickr

HIA security

No US carriers are on the list.

The UK has implemented a similar measure, but Gulf carriers are exempt from it.

When asked about the discrepancy, Al Baker told CNN that the US policy must have been “done in a hurry.”

He reiterated his support for President Donald Trump, someone he previously called a “friend,” but added the official must have been “ill-advised.”

Fewer passengers

To counter the ban, Qatar Airways has begun offering laptops to premium passengers. But Al Baker did admit that business has still been affected.

“Yes, we have had a drop in passengers, but it’s a manageable drop and people have started to realize that there are other ways to use laptops,” Al Baker said.

He added that each flight has seen perhaps 10 fewer passengers due to the ban. But because the airline flies to 10 US cities a day, the numbers must be adding up.

It is unclear how much longer the ban will be in place, though Emirates has previously expected it to last until at least this fall.

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