Turkey Wants Exception from U.S. and U.K. Airline Electronics Ban

Reuters reports that Turkey is “urging the U.S. and Britain to lift the flight electronics ban,” although the body of the story makes it sound more like Turkey is negotiating an exemption for its own flights.

Turkey is in talks with the United States and Britain to exclude Turkish Airlines and Istanbul’s main Ataturk airport from a ban on passengers carrying electronics larger than cell phones, Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday passengers traveling from specific airports, including Istanbul, could not bring into the main cabin devices larger than a mobile phone such as tablets, laptops and cameras.

The foreign ministry spokesman, Huseyin Muftuoglu, made the comments at a news conference in Ankara.

Turkish Airlines acknowledged it was part of the American ban on Tuesday in a fairly anodyne statement that said, “It has been decided by the relevant authorities that electronic devices larger than cell phones or smart phones should not be allowed inside the cabin.”

A Nasdaq report on Thursday said some in Turkey see the ban as “a ploy to undermine their aviation industry.” The report notes that Turkey has been working for years to build up the Istanbul airport as a major international hub, but the electronics ban would reduce its appeal to travelers. The newest airport in Istanbul is scheduled to open in 2018 with capacity for 90 million passengers and eventually double that traffic.

Pro-Erdogan media was quick to publish conspiracy theories that the electronics ban was designed to sabotage the Turkish airline industry, with claims that U.S. air carriers lobbied for the ban to undermine competition from Turkey and Gulf State carriers.

“It appears this decision was made purely on commercial grounds, and it seems it was done to limit the advancements made by Turkish Airlines and by Turkey,” said one Turkish official.

However, the pro-Erdogan Daily Sabah reports that Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu was more measured in his statement, granting that the ban is not permanent, and “precautions should jointly be taken if there is a risk.”

According to Bloomberg News, Turkish Airlines stock tumbled 7.1. percent after the announcement of the passenger electronics ban, its largest decline since December 1st. One analyst noted that roughly 14 percent of Turkish Airlines revenue comes from travel to North America.

Bloomberg notes the Turkish travel industry is still recovering from the conflict with Russia that developed after Turkey shot down a Russian military jet on the Syrian border in November 2015.


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