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Etihad flights exempt from U.S. laptop ban after security beefed up

The United States has lifted a ban on travellers flying Etihad Airways from using laptop computers or other large electronics on board, after the United Arab Emirates-based airline beefed up its security.

Ban remains in place for 9 other airports named in March

Etihad Airlines is the only carrier that offers direct flights between Abu Dhabi and the United States. (Fabian Bimmer/Reuters)

The United States has lifted a ban that prevented travellers flying Etihad Airways from using laptop computers or other large electronics on board, after the United Arab Emirates-based airline beefed up its security.

The Department of Homeland Security announced over the weekend that Etihad would no longer be included in the ban after the airline implemented enhanced security measures that allow passengers to clear U.S. immigration before they land in the United States.

In March, the U.S. banned the use of electronics in cabin on flights from 10 cities in 8 countries, primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. It was believed at the time that terrorists had been attempting to build explosives that could be concealed inside electronic devices.

But Abu Dhabi is now excluded from the list after the airline implemented new protocols at the airport that include more passenger screening.

"The U.S. Immigration facility at Abu Dhabi Airport allows you to clear U.S. immigration and customs formalities before you fly to the U.S., instead of after landing," the airline said. "Additional security checks also mean you can now take all your electronic devices safely on board with you."

The move makes Abu Dhabi the only airport in the region to have new stringent security measures in place, and gives Etihad a competitive advantage over other carriers, at least until more airports increase their security. Currently, Etihad is the only airline that offers non-stop flights between the U.S. and Abu Dhabi, with 45 flights a week.

The original ban affected 10 airports in 8 countries (CBC)

Emirates, the Middle East's largest airline and a rival to Etihad, said in April it was cutting flights on five U.S. routes because of reduced demand resulting from the new rules.

After rumblings that the U.S. was considering expanding the ban, last month Homeland Security went in the opposite direction and instead required tighter check-in security at more than 100 international airports.

"We look forward to working with other airlines to ensure implementation of these critical measures as quickly as possible," a spokesperson with the department told Reuters.

With files from Reuters

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