After months of speculation and rumors, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has officially lifted its ban on passengers carrying electronics larger than a smartphone onboard airplanes.
After government officials visited Saudi Arabian Airlines’ main hub in Jeddah, the TSA announced it no longer will restrict passengers on this last carrier on its ban list. Officials will then visit King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh later this week to confirm compliance there, as well.
The news brings an end to a saga that started in March when the Department of Homeland Security officially limited passengers on nine carriers — Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines — to bringing nothing larger than a smartphone onboard.
The United Kingdom quickly matched the U.S. ban after it was announced, declaring that any device larger than 6.3 inches by 3.7 inches will not be allowed in a plane’s cabin on U.K.-bound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Rumors then broke that the ban could be expanded to 71 airports, but the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and the U.S. Travel Association released statements urging the government to consider all of the ban's implications. “The question remains whether the targeted application of policies banning personal electronics is an effective measure to reduce the risk of terrorism,” GBTA executive director Michael McCormick said in a statement at the time.
Instead of an expansion, the affected airlines were advised they could get around the laptop ban by adopting more stringent screening protocols and by using more sophisticated scanning equipment. The United States began removing airlines from the banned list earlier this month as more and more airlines became compliant with new rules from the Department of Homeland Security.