All travellers from Europe could face a ban from taking laptops into the cabins on flights to US, in a measure similar to one already imposed on travellers from several Middle Eastern countries.
Passengers must stow their devices in checked-in baggage on flights from the affected airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
All are close US allies and none are covered by the Trump administration’s attempts to ban travellers from six other mostly Muslim nations.
The UK has also banned electronic devices on flights from six countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey, with UK airlines including British Airways and easyJet among those affected.
While the US ban applies to “anything larger than a smartphone”, the UK regulations give specific dimensions.
The bans sparked criticism from technology experts, who said the new rules appeared to be at odds with basic computer science.
Specialists say that if an attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold.
Restricting electronic devices to checked baggage for flights from the Middle East has been a commercial boost to US carriers at the expense of their Gulf rivals, which include Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.
US airlines have long contended that the three fast-growing carriers benefit from unfair government subsidies – with which American, Delta and United cannot compete – and have lobbied the Trump administration to intervene. All three Gulf airlines consistently deny that they receive such benefits.
However, extending the restriction would potentially hit US airlines, given the volume of traffic across the Atlantic to airports such as Heathrow. American airlines operate a relatively small number of flights to destinations in the Middle East.
Some Middle Eastern airlines have resorted to lending tablets to business and first-class passengers and allowing them to check devices at the gate, rather than the check-in counter.
Middle Eastern airlines such as Emirates and Turkish Airlines have since launched laptop and tablet handling services enabling passengers to use their devices until just before they board their US-bound flight.