American authorities have secretly called for airlines that fly from 13 countries in the Middle East and Africa to the US to forbid passengers from carrying any electronic device larger than a cellphone.
The new rule has sparked a fresh anti-Muslim debate after a US official said the directive was in place to ensure 'enhanced security measures' at select airports following a 'security concern' regarding passengers boarding non-stop flights from specific countries.
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Passengers are required to check in almost all electronic devices rather than carry them into the cabin, a new order sent in an email described as 'confidential' from the US transportation safety administration (TSA) on Monday said.
The requirement forbids passengers from bringing laptops, iPads, Kindles and even cameras larger than mobile phones into the cabin.
A State Department officials says embassy officials have been notifying relevant countries and airlines.
But it's not specified what airlines were impacted beyond Royal Jordanian Airlines, which tweeted Monday that it will ban most electronics from the cabins on its flights to and from its North American destinations.
The email – described as a "circular" – is not a public regulation, but airlines will be expected to enforce the new rule.
The circular does not address electronic flight bags (EFBs), which allow flight crews to display diagrams mapping flight patterns, maps of airports and other digital documentation, usually on an iPad.
The lack of specificity leaves airlines in the dark as to whether their employees will be cited or otherwise punished for performing the vital functions of aircraft crew as usual.
The TSA referred calls to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In a written statement, the Department of Homeland Security said, "We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate."
Compliance has been swift: "Effective March 21st, the carriage of electronic and electrical devices inbound to the USA shall only be inbound in checked baggage except for mobile and medical devices," according to a reservation agent at one of the affected airlines.
Royal Jordanian Airlines said that starting Tuesday, March 21 it will only allow phones and medical devices to be carried in the cabin of its flights.
All other electronics would be "strictly prohibited."
The airline cited "concerned U.S. departments" without offering additional explanation.
But said that laptops, tablets, DVD players and electronic games must be stored in checked baggage for its flights.
"We will share any further information once shared with us," a spokesperson for Royal Jordanian Airlines said.