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March 31, 2017updated 03 Apr 2017 10:52am

Major Gulf airlines respond to electronics ban with free wifi, laptops and iPads

Middle East airlines Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways will offer passengers flying to the US free laptops, wifi and iPads from next week in response to the US government’s electronics ban.

At the end of March, the US government announced new laws preventing people from bringing carry-on electronic devices bigger than mobile phones onto direct flights to the US from 10 airports in seven Middle Eastern countries and Turkey.

Etihad Airways said first and business class passengers will have unlimited free in-flight Wi-Fi and iPads on US-bound flights. Those with premium economy tickets will also be able to access free in-flight wifi.

Doha-based Qatar Airways will go even further, offering complimentary laptops to business class passengers from next week. The airline will collect prohibited electronics at the gate before boarding.

“By providing this laptop loan service we can ensure that our passengers on flights to the U.S. can continue to work whilst on-board,” Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways said in a statement.

Passengers will be able to download their work onto a USB stick just before boarding, so they can then easily transfer all their personal data to the complimentary laptop.

The airline will also offer one hour of free wifi and $5 for internet access for the full duration of the flight to all passengers on their US services.

Turkish Airlines said it plans to make wifi readily available from 31 March onwards.

Emirates was the first airline to offer passengers the option to use their laptops and tablets until right before they board, when staff collect them and put them in the hold.

However, Emirates has held back from lending electronic devices to passengers for on-board use.

EgyptAir, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines and Saudia Airlines have not yet announced any new policies in response to the electronics ban.

A Kuwait Airways spokeswoman told Verdict that the airline was not planning any changes to its service, which would “run as normal.”

A spokesman from Royal Jordanian Airlines’ London office also said that the airline had made no changes as of yet.

Alexandre de Juniac, the director general and chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the ban is “not an acceptable long-term solution to whatever threat they are trying to mitigate.”

“Even in the short term, it is difficult to understand their effectiveness. And the commercial distortions they create are severe,” he said in a speech in Montreal.