US, UK electronics ban could be boon for Indian carriers

The American and British ban on carry-on electronic devices on planes originating from some countries in West Asia and Africa could prove a boon for Indian airlines, especially the heavily-indebted national carrier Air India.

The restrictions are not applicable to flights originating in India and without stopovers in the countries facing the latest restrictions.

''The latest ban by the Donald Trump administration on iPads and laptops on flights from 10 airports in the Middle-East and North Africa will not affect passengers of Air India, which operates four daily nonstop flights from India to four US cities - New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco,'' said Vinod Hejmadi, director of finance, Air India.

''Besides, the ban will not be applicable on our single-stop operation from Ahmedabad to Newark via London.''

Hundreds of Indians, who regularly transit through airports in West Asia on foreign flights, could now prefer their own country's carriers.

''From an Indian point of view, the announcement should be a gain for carriers such as Jet Airways and Air India that typically fly via Europe. Travelers will prefer airlines that allow them to use these gadgets,'' Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer of travel company Yatra.com, told the Hindustan Times.

About 30,000 passengers fly every month from New Delhi to American cities.

Air India is planning another nonstop service from New Delhi to Washington this July.

''The recent development will have a positive impact on Air India as a large number of passengers use laptops and iPads as their mini-office and generally store a huge lot of official data in these devices. They won't risk losing or damaging these gadgets as check-in luggage,'' Hejmadi said.

Air India flies the long-range, wide-body Boeing 777 aircraft for its nonstop flights to the US, which are said to be popular with the Indian diaspora. The carrier's load factor on US routes has been consistently above 80 per cent, with good business in its premium class too.

''Air India fliers spend hours on their laptops and iPads, clearing mails and completing assignments on long-haul flights to the US. The ban may help Air India improve business in the premium segment,'' the official said.

Officials with the civil aviation ministry assured that passengers from India need not worry about the ban.

The US announced on Tuesday that passengers travelling from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries, including popular stopovers Doha in Qatar and Dubai in the UAE, would have to bring devices such as tablets, laptops and cameras with their check-in luggage.

The UK too joined the ban, and other Western nations were expected to follow soon, after reports that terrorists could smuggle explosives concealed in electronic gadgets. (See: Britain joins US in electronics ban on flights from select countries)

According to an official with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the US restrictions will impact about 350 scheduled flights a week, equivalent to about 2 per cent of total international operations to America.