Chief executives from two of the major Gulf carriers are in dialogue with US security departments about the personal electronic device (PED) cabin ban and are cautiously optimistic that there will be some positive progress soon.
The ban was introduced in March on flights to the USA from certain Middle East countries, requiring passengers to check PEDs into their hold luggage rather than carry them in the cabin.
Emirates Airline president Sir Tim Clark visited Washington DC in May for a series of high-level meetings, during which he discussed the PED ban with the heads of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Meanwhile Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker says talks are underway with the USA about a way forward through an audit of airport security.
Clark says that Dubai's International airport prides itself in its secondary search capability and he has sought to understand where the USA felt it needed to be more rigorous.
"I said: 'tell us what you want – if you want us to have canine intercepts at secondary search, we can do it. If you want explosive trace detection equipment upgraded and applied on every person on the secondary search, we can do that for you. And you're welcome to bring your own officers to stand over and have eyes on the people, if you want."
Clark says that the US authorities were "receptive" to his proposals and he's "optimistic" that there could be a positive resolution: "The pushback from the Europeans [to an extension of the ban] has been really strong. I'm sure in the end that sense will prevail and they will say 'okay, do it our way and then we're alright'."
Al Baker says he expects US authorities to revisit the ban and that "the best way to mitigate this is by doing an audit on those airports, and if those audits comply with their security requirement then they allow those airports to handle laptops and iPads."
He adds that Qatar is "in the process of asking the DHS to come and audit Doha's Hamad International airport".
To mitigate the inconvenience to passengers, the major Gulf carriers have arrangements to allow devices to be used until the point of boarding and then be transferred to the hold and replaced by loan devices.
Clark says there are "upwards of 300 PEDs being boxed individually" on US flights from Dubai. However Al Baker plays down the ban, saying "we don’t see a big impact. We supply laptops to passengers and statistically the number of iPads and laptops we recover from every flight is not more than 15."