DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The president of Emirates, the Middle East’s biggest airline, defended security measures at its Dubai hub on Wednesday and said that the ban on electronics other than mobile phones in the cabins of U.S.-bound flights came as a surprise.
Tim Clark told The Associated Press that he only learned of the new U.S. regulations the previous day, saying the carrier “had no prior knowledge whatsoever.”
Emirates is now scrambling to ensure it’s in compliance by a Saturday morning deadline.
Dubai was one of 10 cities in Muslim-majority countries affected by the new rule, which will force passengers to forego their tablets, laptops and other gadgets on flights that can last up to two-thirds of a day.
A few hours after U.S. officials announced the decision, Britain followed suit. However, Dubai and Abu Dhabi ? the two United Arab Emirates hubs on the U.S. list ? were not included in the British ban.
Clark said Emirates would fully comply with the directives, even as he questioned why his airport’s hub was included in the U.S. order.
“I do find that a little bit surprising to be quite honest,” he said. “When I travel around even the United States or Europe or Asia, I don’t see this level of scrutiny that goes on in Dubai.”
Emirati authorities work closely with their U.S. counterparts to ensure that “the people that they are concerned about coming into the United States do not board our flights,” he added.
“Emirates and its owner, the government of Dubai, and the airport … which we use as our primary hub is as safe as any airport or any airline could possibly be,” he said.
Emirates has expanded rapidly in recent decades, including in the U.S., and is one of the airlines most affected by the new rules.
It operates 18 daily flights to a dozen U.S. cities, including obvious hubs such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as smaller markets like Boston and Fort Lauderdale.
Many of the passengers it carries on its planes are not necessarily going to or from the Middle East, but transit through Dubai International Airport to points all over Emirates’ far-flung global network.
Emirates’ growth has turned Dubai International into the world’s busiest air hub for international passenger traffic, and the third busiest overall.—AP